Uterine Fibroids – What are they?
Uterine fibroids are the benign (non-cancerous) growths or tumors inside or just outside the uterus. The uterus is the female reproductive organ. The fibroids develop when the normal uterine muscle cells start growing abnormally forming a tight mass almost like a tumor.
Depending upon the position, the uterine fibroids can be of 4 types:
Myometrial (in the uterine wall)
Submucosal (under the lining of the uterus)
Subserosal (under the outer uterine covering)
Pendunculated (growing on a stalk outside or inside the uterine cavity)
The uterine fibroids occur in the women of childbearing age, i.e., those between post puberty and premenopause. They mostly develop in women in their thirties. The growth is common and occurs in up to fifty percent of all women.
Medical research proves that the uterine fibroid growth depends upon the levels of female hormone estrogen. The factors that may influence their development include:
Women who have never given birth
Women with a family history
Most of the time, the uterine fibroids do not cause symptoms or problems. A woman with these tumors is usually unaware of their presence. The fibroids, particularly when small, may be entirely asymptomatic.The symptoms depend largely on the location of the lesion and its size. In the victims, the fibroids continue to grow slowly until menopause.
However, in certain cases, these fibroids can cause major health issues like:
Prolonged or excessively heavy periods (menorrhagia)
Bloating in the belly
Pain or heaviness in the lower abdomen
Reproductive problems including infertility and pre term labor
The persisting symptoms certainly call for medical attention and treatment.
Pelvic examination or a trans-vaginal ultrasound helps confirm the presence of these tumors by showing an enlarged or irregularly shaped uterus.
The fibroids often shrink or completely disappear in the affected women, once they reach menopause and the estrogen levels fall. Magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound may also be needed sometimes. However, medical therapy and surgical procedures can shrink or remove the fibroids if the patient has discomfort or troublesome symptoms. The treatment often depends upon several factors, like age, severity of symptoms, and general health conditions. While surgery may be needed in extreme cases, noninvasive procedures like prescription drugs are often sufficient to hamper the fibroids promoting hormones. Fibroids may require emergency treatment if they cause sudden, sharp pelvic pain or profuse menstrual bleeding.