Uterine fibroids are growths that develop either on or within the uterine walls. While these growths are completely benign (noncancerous) and some women may never even know they have them, other women deal with abdominal pain, lower back pain, pain during sex and heavy periods as a result.
Along with pain and heavy periods, women with uterine fibroids may also feel pressure on their bladder and may need to urine more frequently. If the fibroids grow large enough they can also cause abdominal swelling.
While any woman can develop uterine fibroids, there are some factors that could increase a woman’s odds of developing these growths. Women in their 30s and 40s are more likely to deal with fibroids. Fibroids often shrink after menopause.
If you also have a family history of uterine fibroids you may be more likely to experience them. Being overweight or obese also increases your risk. Furthermore, your diet can impact your risk level. Women who eat red meat are at a much higher risk than women who limit their red meat intake and consume a lot of veggies.
Even though it’s not certain what causes uterine fibroids it is believed hormones and genetics may play a role. Fibroids tend to grow faster during pregnancy and are more likely to shrink after menopause (when estrogen and progesterone levels drop drastically).
Most of the time, uterine fibroids may be diagnosed during your routine gynecological checkup. During a pelvic exam, your gynecologist can often feel the fibroids on the uterus. If this happens, imaging tests such as an ultrasound, MRI or X-ray may be necessary to confirm them.
If you have fibroids but do not experience symptoms then treatment may not be necessary. Of course, if you are dealing with pain or other symptoms because of your fibroids then you’ll want to talk with your gynecologist about the best treatment option for you. There are factors both you and your women’s health doctor will need to consider to help you choose the right fibroid treatment for you. These factors include the size and location of your fibroids, whether you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, and your age.
If you are dealing with only mild pain, you may only need over-the-counter medications to ease symptoms when they arise. In some instances, a gynecologist may prescribe birth control pills, which can also reduce heavy menstrual cycles caused by fibroids.
If you are facing moderate-to-severe symptoms then the best option may be surgery to remove the fibroids. Fibroids can return even after surgery. The only way to truly cure this condition is through a hysterectomy, in which the uterus is completely removed.
A gynecologist can help you create a treatment plan that’s right for you to help you manage your fibroid symptoms.