Uterine fibroids are growths that commonly develop on a woman’s uterus, many times without causing any symptoms that would make her aware that they are present. But for some, fibroids can cause discomfort and heavy bleeding. Fibroids affect women of all backgrounds, often during their reproductive years, but to varying degrees. For instance, African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women and at an earlier age.
Fibroids: More Annoying Than Worrisome
Also known as leiomyomas or myomas, each fibroid apparently arises from a single cell that has escaped the usual controls over growth. Ranging in size from a grape to a small grapefruit, fibroids grow inside the uterus or uterine walls, or outside, but attached to, the uterus. Many women with fibroids have no symptoms and need no treatment. Fibroids can develop during a pregnancy without causing problems, although occasionally, some fibroids, particularly if they are large, can interfere with pregnancy or lead to miscarriages or infertility. Most fibroids shrink at menopause, but some grow so large that they press on other internal organs and have to be removed. Fibroids can be the reason behind heavy vaginal bleeding and iron-deficiency anaemia. Some fibroids attached to the uterus by a stem can get twisted, causing pain and fever. If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to bring them to the attention of your ob/gyn:
- Heavy periods — bleeding that lasts longer and is more frequent than what you’re used to seeing
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain in your back or abdomen
Fibroids: Interfering With Fertility
Some uterine fibroids get diagnosed during an evaluation for infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss. Usually, diagnosis requires imaging tests to assess the fibroids’ number, size, and location. The type of fibroids that appear to cause the most problems, are those that form underneath a mucous membrane and jut [inwards into the uterine cavity. This jutting sometimes causes pregnancy failure and/or loss of fertility because it makes the uterine cavity abnormal and decreases the chance of pregnancy. Fibroids within the uterine wall can also alter the uterine cavity, block the fallopian tubes, or displace the cervix, the narrow opening at the end of the uterus, near the vagina. Uterine fibroids are growths that commonly develop on a woman’s uterus, many times without causing any symptoms that would make her aware that they are present. But for some, fibroids can cause discomfort and heavy bleeding.
Fibroids affect women of all backgrounds, often during their reproductive years, but to varying degrees, explains John F. Steege, MD, director of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and director of the UNC Fibroid Care Clinic. For instance, African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women and at an earlier age. Because every case of fibroids is different and because your needs change at different times in your life, consulting with your a professional will help you make the best choice for fibroid treatment.
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