Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
You may have gone to your gynecologist with “woman problems” and learned that you have uterine fibroids.
Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus and can cause some significant discomfort and other medical issues. These fibroids are almost always benign, meaning that they are not cancerous. They can grow as a single tumor or they can be many of them in the uterus. Some women have them small as a apple seed while others suffer with tumors that grown as large as a grapefruit and even larger.
By the time a woman reaches age 50 between 20 and 80% of them will have developed fibroids. The variation in statistics are a result of reporting practices and estimations of the number of women who may have fibroids but which go unreported because they have minimal to no symptoms.
Certain factors will increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids, such as her age, family history, ethnic origin, obesity and eating habits. As a woman ages, her risks increase, having a family member with fibroids increases the risk, African-American women are more likely to develop them than white women, women who are over weight are at higher risk and women who eat a lot of red meat and pork are at higher risk. (1)
Some women who have fibroids have little to no symptoms while others are wracked with pain through most of the month. During the menstrual cycle women can experience pelvic pain and discomfort as well as excessive menstrual bleeding which can lead to anemia. This anemia must be treated aggressively so that the woman is able to function throughout all of the month. Excessive bleeding can lead to anemia out which will significantly impair a woman’s health and her ability to supply the body with enough oxygen for function.
Some women also experienced painful menstrual bleeding or more frequent menstruation. In other words if her regular cycle was 28 to 30 days she may have a menstrual cycle every 20 days. She can also bleed between periods, which isn’t a full cycle. Some women also experienced vaginal discharge.
Many women to have uterine fibroids will experience lower abdominal fullness throughout the entire month. Because the fibroids can get large enough to sit on the bladder they can also experienced frequent urination, reduced bladder capacity and bladder problems. The size of the fibroids can change throughout the month so that women may notice a difference in the beginning of her cycle versus the end of her cycle in both the fullness in her abdomen and the amount of bladder capacity she may have.
Women who have uterine fibroids may also experience pain during sexual intercourse or a low back pain. The size of the fibroids can significantly impact the surrounding supportive structures which negatively impacts on lower back pain.
Women who have fibroids of significant size may also find they have trouble with infertility and if they do become pregnant can have difficulty with early onset of labor. Some women who have fibroids at poorly placed into areas in the uterus may have recurrent spontaneous abortions because the placenta is not able to adequately attach to the uterine wall.
Some women also experienced pain in the back of their legs from the pressure of the uterus on the nerves running through the pelvic girdle. Pressure on the bowels can also lead to constipation or bloating.
Physicians use a thorough medical history, extensive physical examination and ultrasound to diagnose and confirmed the presence of uterine fibroids. Only after determining the size and presence of the fibroids can physicians adequately make recommendations about successful treatments.
(1) The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Uterine Fibroids
Illinois Department of Public Health: Facts about Uterine Fibroids
University of Maryland Medical Center: Uterine Fibroids
National Uterine Fibroid Foundation: Risks
WomensHealth.gov: Uterine Fibroids Fact Sheet