What You Need To Know About Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are growths in the uterus that often appear during a woman’s reproductive years. They are non-cancerous and often asymptomatic, and women may learn they exist only through an annual pelvic exam. Uterine fibroids can range widely in size. Some are as small as a seed. In other cases, masses can extend to the size of the uterus. Fibroids can be single or multiple – in rare cases, multiple fibroids can add weight to a person’s frame.
Uterine fibroids are common and do not increase your risk of uterine cancer. However, depending on their size, number, and location, they can cause discomfort or symptoms.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
When a woman has symptoms from a uterine fibroid(s), they can include the following:
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Periods lasting longer than a week
- Spotting in between periods
- Leg pain or backaches
- Frequent urination
- Issues emptying the bladder
Physicians classify uterine fibroids into three types: Intramural fibroids grow in the uterine wall; subserosal fibroids extend outside of the uterus, and submucosal fibroids grow in the uterine cavity.
What Causes Uterine Fibroids?
We don’t always know the cause of uterine fibroids. Research, however, points to a few possibilities:
- Hormones. Progesterone and estrogen are the two main players involved in both menstruation and pregnancy. They also seemingly contribute to the growth of uterine fibroids, which is why they most often occur during the childbearing years.
- Genetic changes. Markers show that fibroids contain changes in genes different from normal uterine cells.
- Bodily growth factors. Other growth factors within the bodies, such as insulin-like growth factors, may contribute to the growth of fibroids.
Are Uterine Fibroids Dangerous?
The presence of a uterine fibroid itself rarely poses a danger. They can, however, cause the woman who has them discomfort. In some cases, fibroids can contribute anemia from heavy blood loss. They do not usually affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant, but they can increase the risk of placental abruption, preterm delivery, and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Your physician can tell you more about uterine fibroids and any associated risks based on their location and size.
In general, uterine fibroids are nothing to worry about. They are common during a woman’s child-bearing years, and usually shrink after menopause. In some cases, they can cause discomfort or complications during pregnancy. If you have any questions about how uterine fibroids affect you, talk to your OB/GYN. We are here to help.