Uterine fibroids (also known as myoma, leiomyoma, fibromyoma) are benign tumors that attach themselves to the walls of the uterus. They affect almost 30% of women from ages 30-45. Problems with heavy bleeding and pain can occur when fibroids increase in size or quantity.
Types of Fibroids
There are different types of fibroids that are classified based upon their location on the uterus. Because there are different variations, it is possible for women to have multiple types of fibroids at one time. This can make it difficult to target the exact cause of the problem. The four most common types of uterine fibroids are: subserosal, intramural, submucosal, and pedunculated.
- Subserosal: This type of fibroid develops underneath the serosa, or outer uterine layer. Subserosal fibroids are classified by the small bumps on the outer wall of the uterus that they produce. Often times, these fibroids cause pelvic pain as they enlarge.
- Intramural: This is the most commonly occurring type of fibroid and is classified by growth in the muscular wall of the uterus. Intramural fibroids are commonly confused with pregnancy since they can cause the uterus to bloat. These fibroids can cause discomfort, frequent urination, or heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Submucosal: These fibroids develop below the inner lining of the uterus and can impact blood vessels, causing abnormal bleeding and pelvic pain. Because of their location, submucosal fibroids can cause fertility problems if they grow too large and block the fallopian tubes. If left untreated, they can also cause anemia, extended menstrual periods, and chronic fatigue.
- Pedunculated: This type of fibroid grows from a stalk outside the uterus. If it begins to twist and grow into the uterus, it can cause pelvic pain, pressure, and cramping.
Most women who have uterine fibroids are unaware since they experience mild to no symptoms. However, here are some possible symptoms to be aware of:
- Excessive Menstrual Bleeding: Excessive menstrual bleeding is characterized by periods lasting longer than seven days, the need to wear both tampons and pads, and having to change tampons and/or pads every 2 hours. This is one of the most typical signs of uterine fibroids, especially intramural and submucosal. Prolonged periods of excessive bleeding can also cause fatigue, anemia, and clotting.
- Pelvic Pain & Pressure: When fibroids increase in size, they can cause the uterus to bloat or place extra pressure on the uterus, causing pain in the pelvic region. Depending on the size of the fibroid or the amount it has caused the uterus to bloat, surrounding structures and organs can be compressed leading to feelings of discomfort or pressure.
- Urinary Incontinence: Since the uterus sits on top of the bladder, when it becomes bloated it exerts more pressure on the bladder. This additional pressure can cause unwanted leakage or even accidents.
- Constipation/bloating: Again, the uterus is nearby the colon and intestines, so when it bloats all these surrounding structures are affected. If the uterus is enlarged and is placing pressure on the intestines or colon, this could cause feelings of premature fullness, bloating, and constipation.
Other symptoms: In addition to the above common symptoms, there are also other symptoms that can occur. These include: anemia, infertility, leg pain, painful intercourse, and abdominal swelling.
While the exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, a possible combination of factors can increase the risk of developing them. These factors include:
- Age: Most fibroid cases are seen in women between the ages of 35-50. It is rare for fibroids to occur in a woman’s early twenties and menopause will cause the fibroids to stabilize or shrink.
- Hormones: Since estrogen and progesterone are associated with both fibroids and childbearing, the elevated levels of these hormones that occur during childbearing years can increase the risk of fibroids.
- Genetics: If there are other female family members affected by fibroids, the risk increases for an individual.
- Weight: Overweight women have an increased chance of developing fibroids. It has also been found that a diet lacking fruits and vegetables or one that is high in red meat consumption can also increase the risk of fibroids.
- Lifestyle: Alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and toxins that affect the uterus can all increase the likelihood of developing fibroids.
- Ethnicity: African-American women have a higher risk of developing fibroids that develop earlier and can grow larger.
- Reproduction: Women who have never given birth are at a higher risk of developing fibroids. It is believed that pregnancy causes uterine changes after childbirth that naturally protect the uterus.
Fibroids are highly treatable and do not always need to be removed. An MRI is the best way to determine the type and quantity of fibroids to determine the best treatment option.
If you are concerned you may have uterine fibroids, schedule an appointment with us at the MINT Institute today. We have convenient locations in St. Louis, MO, Wentzville, MO, Swansea, IL, Evergreen Park, IL, and Chicago, IL. Our institute provides you with the ability to experience relief from fibroids without surgery using Uterine Fibroid Embolization. To learn more, please visit our Uterine Fibroid Embolization page.