Clinically known as leiomyomas or myomas, Uterine fibroids are muscular tumours that grow on the uterus. The percentage of occurrence of uterine fibroids in Indian women is alarmingly high.
These muscular growths vary in size and structure. Sometimes, they are very small and in some women, they form huge lumps that threaten to harm the size and shape of the uterus.
In majority of the cases, uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths and do not add to a woman’s risk of developing uterine cancer.
Types of Fibroids
The most common type of fibroid to appear within the muscular wall of the uterus, these begin as small nodules but, may expand with time, causing the uterine cavity to distort and elongate.
Subserosal uterine fibroids form on the outer surface of the uterus and may grow large enough to make the womb appear larger on one side.
When subserosal tumours develop a slender base (stem-like) that attaches itself to the uterus, they become pedunculated fibroids.
These uterine fibroids usually originate as intramural fibroids, gradually growing towards the endometrial cavity. They develop in the middle muscle layer and are usually rare, accounting for only 5 percent of all occurrences of fibroids among women.
What are the symptoms of Uterine Fibroid?
Uterine Fibroids do not always cause pain or have identifiable symptoms. Hence, it is not surprising that a large number of women remain unaware about their fibroids.
Women who experience symptoms often experience the following:
- Irregular and/ or Heavy menstrual bleeding, clots
- Prolonged menstrual cycles
- Urge to pee frequently and/or difficulty emptying bladder
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Enlarged abdomen or uterus
- Infertility and Miscarriage
- Pressure or pain in lower abdomen and/or lower back
It is imperative to consult a Gynecologist in case one feels any of these symptoms or uneasiness in the lower abdomen area.
What causes Uterine Fibroids?
The exact reason why fibroids develop is still a mystery. It is however believed that an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone can cause this.
Are you at risk?
Age, race, and body weight are a few factors that influence chances of developing uterine fibroids. Other factors that lead to increased risks are:
Women with a family history of uterine fibroids stand a higher risk
Early Menstrual Period Onset
Early menarche age is likely to increase the risk
Vitamin D Deficiency
According to various studies, sufficient levels of Vitamin D can lower chances of developing uterine fibroids
Indulging in alcohol, red meat, and skipping green vegetables, dairy products can increase the risk.
While the medical community is still largely divided on this, experts opine that - depending upon the levels of estrogen in them, birth control pills may lead to development of fibroids in women. At the same time, birth-control pills help regulate heavy menstrual flow and other symptoms that accompany fibroids.
Diagnosing Uterine Fibroids
A routine pelvic examination to check the condition, size, and shape of uterus by a Gynaecologist would reveal any abnormal growth in the uterus. Some other techniques employed by Gynaecologists could be:
- Ultrasound (Transabdominal or Transvaginal)
- CT Scan
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Gynecologists might keep an eye on symptoms and try the ‘watchful waiting’ method. Fibroids often tend to shrink or stop growing as a woman approaches menopause; the doctor may record any changes in symptoms and keep in check the growth of fibroids.
Treatment plan depends on age, the size of fibroid(s), and overall health.
Doctors adopt various ways and medications to regulate hormone levels. A doctor must be immediately consulted if any of the symptoms are noticed. A surgical intervention might be resorted to in extreme cases.
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