by Kimberly Allen, RNUterine fibroids are leiomyoma tumors. These are benign, meaning non-cancerous, tumors. They are made of the same muscle fibers as the uterus, however, they’re much more dense. They are remarkable common, in fact there are over 235 million women worldwide that have uterine fibroids. Experts estimate that approximately 3 out of 4 women will develop uterine fibroids at some point in their life. Uterine fibroids do not develop until after a girl has gone through puberty and are not found in women after menopause. They are most commonly diagnosed in women in their 30’s. Uterine fibroids also affect African-American women as much as three times more often than Caucasian women. Researchers say that uterine fibroids can run in families so if your mother has or had uterine fibroids the chances that you will develop them goes up. Researchers have also said they have compelling data indicating that women who take birth control pills reduce their risk of developing uterine fibroids.
Though researchers have been unable to state the exact cause of uterine fibroids clinical experience does indicate certain factors are involved. Though uterine fibroids are made of the same muscle fibers as the uterus they have found that there are genetic alterations in the muscle fibers of most of them. They have also found that uterine fibroids contain higher levels of estrogen and progesterone than normal muscle tissue from your uterus. Many researchers also believe that other substances in your body, for example the insulin-like growth factor, may also have an affect on the growth of uterine fibroids.
Uterine fibroids have also been classified into different types depending on where they are located. Myometrial fibroids are those that form in the muscular wall of your uterus. Uterine fibroids that grow just below the interior surface of the uterus are called submucosal fibroids, these may even protrude into the uterus. Subserosal fibroids are those that grow on the outer wall of the uterus, however, they are not attached by a base or stalk. While on the other hand pedunculated fibroids are usually found on the outside of the uterus and they are attached to the uterus by a stalk or base. Any of these fibroids can range in size from microscopic to very large weighing in the tens of pounds.
Frequently women don’t even realize they have uterine fibroids because most of the time there are either no symptoms or they’re so mild that they’re over looked. However, for others especially those with larger fibroids they do experience symptoms. The symptoms you might experience include a longer than usual menstrual period, usually longer than 7 days. Many women also experience heavier bleeding during their periods as well. Some complain of their abdomen or pelvic area feeling bloated and they may have pain in their lower abdomen and/or pelvis. Some women also complain of constipation and/or pain with intercourse.
There is no one way to treat uterine fibroids, treatment depends on the size and location as well as how symptomatic it is and your overall health. There are several options available to you and your Dr. For women that are not experiencing symptoms the best approach may be “watching and waiting”. Remember uterine fibroid are not cancerous. For women that have fibroids that are interfering with their menstrual periods there are some medications available that may help. Although these medications do not eliminate the fibroid they usually shrink them. If your fibroids are large and causing you significant impairment your doctor may recommend surgery. If you are of childbearing age and plan to have children your doctor may recommend a myeomectomy which is removing the fibroid while leaving the uterus in place. The only downside is that the fibroids can return. If you are not planning on having children you have the option of a hysterectomy and although this is the only known permanent solution to ending uterine fibroids it also ends your ability to have children. This option is permanent and should only be considered when the uterine fibroids are causing significant impairment.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.