Fibroids are non-cancerous or benign growths that develop in the uterus.
Fibroids are the most common benign tumors in females and typically found during the middle and later reproductive years. As many as 30 percent of women have one or more of these tumors, which range in size from as small as a pea to as large as a melon. The condition is about twice as common in African American women as Caucasian women.
Most women with fibroids have no symptoms and don’t need treatment. But if symptoms occur, you should seek medical attention.
Symptoms of fibroids may include:
- Heavy Vaginal Bleeding — Some women experience excessive menstrual bleeding. Some women describe soaking through sanitary protection in less than an hour, passing blood clots and being unable to leave the house during the heaviest day of flow. If this blood loss occurs, you may develop anemia, or a low blood count, that can cause fatigue or lightheadedness.
- Pelvic Pressure or Discomfort — Women with large fibroids may have a sense of heaviness or pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvis. This discomfort is similar to pregnancy when the enlarging uterus presses against surrounding structures.
- Bladder Changes — The most frequent bladder symptom is the need to urinate more frequently. You may awaken several times during the night to urinate or you may be unable to urinate despite the sensation of a full bladder. Bladder symptoms are caused by fibroids pressing against the bladder, reducing its capacity to hold urine or blocking the urine from flowing.
- Pelvic Pain — A less common symptom is severe pain. This occurs when a fibroid goes through a process called degeneration, usually because it outgrows its blood supply. The pain is usually localized and subsides within two to four weeks.
- Low Back Pain — Fibroids that press against the muscles and nerves of the lower back can cause back pain.
- Rectal Pressure — Fibroids also can press against the rectum and cause a sense of rectal fullness, difficulty having a bowel movement or pain with bowel movements. Occasionally, fibroids can lead to the development of a hemorrhoid.
Treatment for fibroids can range from no treatment at all to surgery. Unless fibroids are causing excessive bleeding, discomfort or bladder problems, treatment usually isn’t necessary. Treatments depend on the size and location of the fibroid.
Symptomatic uterine fibroids can be treated by:
- Medication to control symptoms
- Contraceptive pills to reduce bleeding and regulate the menstrual cycle
- Medication aimed at shrinking tumours
- Intrauterine devices (IUD) to decrease bleeding caused by fibroids
- Ultrasound fibroid destruction
- Various surgically aided methods to reduce blood supply of fibroids
- Myomectomy or radio frequency ablation
After menopause fibroids shrink and it is unusual for fibroids to cause problems.