What are fibroids?
A uterine fibroid, or leiomyoma, is a growth in the uterus. These growths are noncancerous and usually develop during your reproductive years.
Fibroids can be tiny growths invisible to the naked eye or large masses that distort and stretch the uterus. They can grow within the uterine wall, into the uterine cavity, or protrude out of the uterus. You can have one fibroid or several.
A fibroid's growth can also fluctuate. Some grow slowly, quickly, or remain the same size. It's common for fibroids to decrease in size on their own, especially after menopause.
Fibroids don't increase your risk of developing uterine cancer.
What causes fibroids?
The exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, but several factors can play a role including changes in genes, substances in your tissues that promote growth, and the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Your risks of developing fibroids increase if your mother or sister has fibroids and if you're African-American. Black women usually have larger fibroids in higher numbers at a younger age.
Environmental factors can also increase your risk of fibroids, including:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Early onset of menses
Diets with increased alcohol and red meat content, and low in fruits and vegetables, can increase your risk.
What are the symptoms of fibroids?
Fibroids don't always cause symptoms. When they do, it's usually due to their size, location, and number. Common symptoms of fibroids include:
- Pain or pressure in the pelvis
- Periods lasting longer than seven days
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
- Painful or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Leg pains or backaches
Fibroids can also put pressure on organs near your uterus, so you might experience a frequent need to urinate or difficulty emptying your bladder.
How are fibroids diagnosed and treated?
Dr. Jones can usually diagnose uterine fibroids during a pelvic examination. If she suspects fibroids based on your exam and symptoms, she might recommend additional tests, including:
- Ultrasounds or MRIs
Treatment options vary for fibroids. Dr. Jones might recommend watching them to see if they resolve on their own, or she may prescribe medications to reduce their size or symptoms. Some fibroids respond well to noninvasive procedures that use sound waves to heat and destroy fibroid tissue.
If you think you might have fibroids, call Total Women's Care or schedule an appointment online today.