What are Uterine Fibroids and How Often do They Occur?
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the uterus. They are also called leiomyomas. It is said they can be found in up to 10% of women and that 1 in every 3 women will have fibroids at some point in their lives, and most women will have them by the time they reach menopause. Fibroids are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue.
Despite the fact that fibroids are the most prevalent tumors to affect women’s pelvic organs and have been known and recognized since ancient times. it wasn’t until the first laparotomy was conducted that an accurate diagnosis could be made. Also, without the use of modern imaging technologies, it was difficult to distinguish between huge fibroids and large ovarian tumors, and the diagnosis was almost always incorrect
The most common symptom of uterine fibroids is heavy menstrual bleeding, but this symptom is also associated with other conditions. It can be difficult to diagnose uterine fibroids because they don’t always cause symptoms.
Uterine fibroids are often asymptomatic, so it can be hard to detect them without a medical examination. They can range from pea-size to melon-sized
Fibroids may also be more likely to develop if there is a family history of uterine fibroids (although this has not been proven) or if the woman has had any of these conditions: endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine prolapse, or adenomyosis.
Causes of Fibroids
There are no known causes of fibroids. However, certain conditions may encourage the development and growth of fibroids
The hormones estrogen and progesterone are responsible for the female menstrual cycle. They are produced by the ovaries. During menopause, fibroids shrink, so it is possible that estrogen stimulates the growth of fibroids.
if your mother, grandmother or even aunty had fibroids, there is a likelihood that you may develop it too
During pregnancy, estrogen production is increased which in turn feeds the fibroids. This is why sometimes you see a fast growth of a fibroid during pregnancy
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is present in different food and is produced in the body when we are exposed to early morning sunlight. It has the ability to stunt the growth of cells and regulate the immune system. This vitamin also cuts down the production of fibrous tissue by fibroid cells in the body. It is important to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of vitamin
Sometimes, some women in the bid to get pregnant, take certain drugs that have adverse effects. understanding how some of these medications add to your development of fibroids is still helpful. The below-listed points have been shown to encourage fibroid growth
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a man-made synthetic form of estrogen given to women from 1938 to 1971 as a treatment for infertility and premature deliveries.
- Maternal pre-pregnancy diabetes or gestational diabetes.
- Being part of multiple pregnancies, such as being a twin or triplet
Black women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women. By the age of 35, 60% of African American women will have fibroids, compared to 40% of Caucasian women. Nearly a quarter of Black women between 18 and 30 have fibroids compared to about 6% of white women.
Black women are also two to three times more likely to have recurring fibroids or suffer from complications.
While you are not able to change your genetics, you can focus on the other causes of uterine fibroids that you do have some control over
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids and Why You Should Seek Medical Attention
Fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the uterus. They can be small or large, and they can cause a variety of symptoms. Sometimes fibroids are asymptomatic, which means they don’t produce any symptoms.
Symptoms vary depending on the size of the fibroid, where it is located in the uterus, and what type it is.
Common symptoms include
- Painful intercourse
- Urinary frequency
- Lower back pain
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Abdominal and pelvic pain
- Irregular periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Painful periods
- Low iron levels
- Menorrhagia. longer than normal menstrual bleeding
- Metrorrhagia is menstrual bleeding at irregular intervals
Risk Factors For Fibroids
Some women are more prone to develop this tumor than others. Here are the most common risk factors for developing fibroids.
- Family history
- Age of 30 or older
- African-American/ Black
- Getting your period at a young age (early menarche)
- Birth control use
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Eating too much red meat
- Not enough green vegetables, fruit, or dairy
- Excessive intake of Alcohol
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Research conducted by a team of scientists at FibroGENE consortium has said that these four genes are linked to the development of fibroids and also associated with endometriosis.
- Women’s reproductive organs during the fetal period (WNT4),
- Cell communication between estrogenic and progesterone hormones (ESR1, GREB1)
- Stimulation of ovarian follicles (FSHB).
Their research also shows that these main hormones are associated with fibroids and heavy menstrual periods. Endometriosis was also a main point of research as it showed that these same genomic markers were also linked to the development of endometriosis.
This further proves the point that having endometriosis is a major risk factor for developing uterine fibroids.
Types of Fibroids
Intramural fibroids: They are located within the muscular wall of the uterus. They can be located anteriorly, posteriorly, and in the upper part (fundus) of the uterus.
Subserosal fibroids: They are located on the surface of the uterus. They can also grow outward from the surface
Submucosal fibroids: These are the most common type, located in the muscle beneath the endometrium of the uterus and distort the uterine cavity; even small lesions in this location may lead to heavy bleeding. Submucosal fibroids can make it harder for your uterus to support conception and maintain pregnancy.
Intracavitary fibroids: They are totally inside the cavity of the uterus.
Pedunculated fibroids: These kinds of fibroids are attached to the external part of the uterus via a stalk
Cervical fibroids: They are found in the cervix’s wall (neck of the uterus). Rarely, fibroids are located in the uterus’ supporting tissues, which include smooth muscle tissue (such as the round ligament, broad ligament, or uterosacral ligament).
Degenerating fibroid: Uterine fibroid degeneration occurs when a fibroid outgrows its limited blood supply. When the connecting blood vessels cannot provide enough oxygen to a fibroid, its cells begin to die, or degenerate.
When a fibroid degenerates, it shrinks back to a smaller size that its blood supply can support. Though fibroid degeneration does decrease the size of fibroids, this is only temporary—a degenerated fibroid is likely to expand and degenerate again.
Some symptoms of degenerating fibroids are
- Acute waist pain
- Bleeding with clots or grainy particles
- Watery discharge mixed with blood
How To Diagnose Fibroids
This is when the doctor tells you to lie down, and with your permission, he starts palpating your stomach for lumps or tumors. If you have a specific place where you are feeling pain in your abdomen, he will start palpation away from that point and work his way towards that point
Soundwaves are used in ultrasounds to capture images of the uterus. To obtain the photos, a technician will either insert a device on your abdomen or in your vagina. Then, your physician can determine whether you have fibroids as well as their location and size.
To assist in determining the cause of your fibroids, your doctor could recommend that you undergo blood testing. They can determine whether you have anemia (low numbers of red blood cells) or other bleeding disorders
A technician enlarges your uterine cavity by pushing saline into it during this examination. This enables them to see the uterine lining and submucosal fibroids that are enlarging into your uterus. If you’re trying to get pregnant or have heavy periods, this is helpful.
A little telescope with a light attached is inserted into your cervix by the doctor. This enables them to examine the walls of your uterus and the entrance of your fallopian tube after injecting saline solution and widening your uterine cavity.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
This in-depth imaging test produces pictures of your uterus, ovaries, and other pelvic organs.
Foods To Stay Away From
Clinical studies show that consuming too much red meat increases your risk of developing uterine fibroids. Alcohol use also raises your risk.
Consuming excessive amounts of refined carbs and sugary meals may cause or make fibroids worse. These foods cause a rise in blood sugar. Your body makes an excessive amount of the hormone insulin as a result. Restrict or avoid simple processed carbs such as:
- White rice, pasta, and wheat, as well as sugary beverages
- Corn sugar
- Packaged cereals
- Baked goodies (cakes, cookies, doughnuts)
- Fried potatoes
What To Eat
Fiber-rich foods help in curbing appetite, prevents excess weight gain and improve gut circulation.
- Raw and cooked vegetables and fruit
- Dried fruit
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Lentils and beans
- Whole grain bread
- Fresh and dried herbs
- Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna
- Mixed berries (contains resveratrol which may help in stopping fibroids)
- Citrus fruits, such as lemons and limes
- Soya products
- Green tea: A bioflavonoid in green tea called EGCG may help reduce the size and number of fibroids. This may be due to its ability to reduce inflammation.
Vitamins That Help Slow Down/Maybe Prevent The Growth Of Fibroids
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Not So Frequently Asked Questions
Are fibroids serious?
yes and no. some fibroids simply do not cause any discomfort and sometimes do not grow beyond a certain size. But if you start experiencing some fibroid-related symptoms. A trip to the doctor should be your next course of action
Can they be cancerous?
Not to my knowledge. Well, fibroids are already a type of tumor. The thing is they are benign (which means they do not spread or infiltrate other tissues). And I have not read anywhere that a fibroid turns cancerous and spread.
Can they cause bloating?
Yes, they can. As fibroids grow, they tend to give a feeling of fulness. Some women report feeling constantly bloated due to their fibroids
Can they cause weight gain?
When fibroids themselves expand in size, the result is abdominal weight gain. Uterine fibroids that are really big might weigh several pounds or even press against other organs. Women frequently have several fibroid tumors. In extreme circumstances, a woman could even seem pregnant due to the excess weight in the region.
Can fibroids cause bleeding after menopause?
Yes, this could happen if the woman is on hormonal therapy pills. Since most of these pills boost estrogen production, the fibroids feed on the estrogen which, in turn, can cause uterine bleeding.
Can they cause miscarriage?
Yes, they can. This is because the bigger the fibroid, the bigger the vessels it contains. This means that it can take away blood flow to the developing fetus and also the uterus
Can fibroid burst or rupture?
No, they can’t, fibroids are made up of muscle tissue and fibrinous tissue which makes them unable to burst.
When do fibroids grow quickly?
Fibroids have been found to grow the quickest during pregnancy. This is because of the increased production of the hormones, estrogen, and progesterone.
Do fibroids go away on their own?
No, they don’t. Fibroids do not magically disappear. You may be lucky and have asymptomatic fibroids. But if they are not treated, they will remain there till death.
Do they go away after pregnancy?
Read the answer above this
How do fibroids feel?
To the woman with large fibroids, she may feel heaviness or pressure in their lower abdomen or pelvis. This is mostly described as a dull discomfort rather than a sharp pain. Sometimes, the enlarged uterus makes it difficult to lie face down, bend over, or exercise without discomfort.
When you feel a fibroid while touching a woman’s abdomen, it feels like you are touching a stone that has a skin wrapper. With some fibroids, you can feel the coarseness when touching the abdomen slowly. Some fibroids are even a little bit movable.
Can you reduce fibroid pain by sitz bath or vaginal steaming?
I have heard of instances where some women who had heavy menstrual bleeding caused by fibroids, were told to do a daily sitz bath (this is cleansing the perineum, space between the anus and vulva) with warm water. Sitz baths help relieve pain and itching. It is usually done with a sitz bath kit.
Vaginal steaming. NO, you cannot cure or relieve fibroid pain with vaginal steaming. First of all, as a practice, vaginal steaming makes no sense. Although it has been used for ages, none of the said benefits have any research backing them
- The steam never enters the vagina or the cervix
- It has the potential to scald your vulva (outer part of the vagina)
- If it does get absorbed through the mucous membrane of the vagina, it will disrupt the ph. of the vagina. This can cause bacterial vaginosis.
If you want to clean your vagina, please stick to water and mild or hypoallergenic cleansers
Can you get pregnant with fibroids?
Many women with fibroids can naturally become pregnant. Even treatment might not be required for conception. However, fibroids occasionally have an effect on your fertility.
Are there Fibroids with hair and teeth growing inside them?
No, those kinds of tumors are called teratomas. A teratoma is a rare variety of germ cell tumors that might include immature or fully developed tooth, hair, bone, or muscle tissue. People of all ages can develop teratomas, which can be either malignant or non-cancerous.
Can you have fibroids without an irregular period and heavy bleeding?
Yes, you can, some fibroids show no symptoms and can sometimes remain that way
Do You Have Contractions When You Have Fibroids?
No, the only time you experience contractions is during pregnancy and labor. However, you may feel muscle spasms in your abdominal area from time to time which can sometimes mimic contractions
Difference Between Fibroids And Endometriosis?
Fibroids are smooth muscle tumors that develop in the uterus from the womb’s muscle layers. They are often noncancerous. On the other hand, endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue around the uterus grows abnormally.
This can result in cysts on the ovaries, irritation of the tissue, or the formation of a scar that binds the reproductive organs. Traditional therapies (such as hysterectomy) for either of these disorders (which can also cause heavy periods, pelvic pain, and problems getting pregnant) can also result in infertility.
Difference Between Fibroids And Polyps
The tissue that makes up fibroids and polyps is the main difference between the two. Polyps are formed from the tissue that lines the uterus, also known as endometrial tissue, whereas fibroids are composed of muscle cells and connective tissue.
While irregular bleeding is the primary indication of polyps, a variety of painful symptoms can be brought on by fibroids. Uterine fibroids can develop in younger age groups, while polyps are more prevalent in people in their 40s and 50s.
Treatments For Uterine Fibroids And Their Possible Side Effects
Less estrogen and progesterone are produced by the body when an injection known as a GnRH agonist is given. When these injections are given, fibroids reduce in size. After the course of treatment, GnRH agonists stop the menstrual cycle without affecting fertility.
Hot flashes, frequent sweating, vaginal dryness, and, in certain instances, an increased risk of osteoporosis. These are all menopause-like symptoms that are caused by GnRH agonists.
GnRH agonists should only be used temporarily. These drugs may be prescribed by a doctor to a patient before a myomectomy
They include leuprolide (Lupron Depot, Eligard, others), goserelin (Zoladex) and triptorelin (Trelstar, Triptodur Kit)
Progestin Releasing Intrauterine device (IUD)
An IUD that releases progesterone can stop excessive bleeding brought on by fibroids. This device merely relieves symptoms; it does not reduce or eliminate fibroids. It also helps in preventing pregnancy.
This medication is taken to ease heavy menstrual periods. It’s taken only on the days that you may experience heavy bleeding.
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs ( NSAIDs )
This medication is taken to relieve menstrual pain. They include drugs like ibuprofen, diclofenac, cataflam etc.
Herbal Treatment of Fibroids
I personally do not know of any herbal treatment for fibroids. There are a lot of websites that sell herbal products that claim to remove fibroids. However, I do not know of any. I do promise to do some in-depth research on this and write on it in the near future
Myomectomy: This is an invasive procedure that involves removing the fibroids but leaving the uterus intact. Research has shown that about 33 percent of women who have a myomectomy will need a repeat procedure within 5 years because the fibroids grow again.
Hysterectomy: This procedure is when the surgeon removes the entire uterus. This surgery is usually best if you have achieved all your child birthing goals. It is also carried out in cases of cervical and ovarian cancer.
Embolization of Uterine Fibroids (UFE):
This is a non-surgical method of treating fibroids. The fibroids’ blood supply is blocked during a UFE operation, which helps to reduce symptoms and causes the fibroids to gradually decrease. Mini beads are inserted into the uterine artery to block the supply to the fibroid
The fact that this treatment method keeps fertility intact is one of its main advantages. Another advantage of UFE over surgery is the speedy recovery: with UFE, patients can return to their regular activities in as little as one to two weeks, whereas a hysterectomy may require six to eight weeks.
Focused Ultrasound Treatment
Uterine fibroids can be treated non-invasively with MRI-guided focused ultrasound (FUS). This procedure eliminates the fibroids while leaving the healthy uterus intact. The fibroids’ proteins are targeted with concentrated, high-frequency, high-energy sound waves until they are killed.
Focused Ultrasound Treatment enables doctors to precisely target and monitor therapy when combined with MRI. An average treatment session lasts three hours. Fibroids are not removed; however, they decrease a lot in size
In conclusion, fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the uterus. They can cause various symptoms, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and pressure on the bladder. They are usually diagnosed by ultrasound or a pelvic exam.
For most women, the menstrual cycle is a natural and healthy part of life. However, for some women, periods can be painful and heavy. Women who have fibroids may experience these symptoms as well as other problems such as infertility and pelvic pain.
I hope this article has been helpful in explaining what fibroids are and how they affect women’s health. If you or someone you know has been experiencing these symptoms, please consult a physician to discuss your options or feel free to share with us in the comments section.
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