Uterine fibroids, also known as myomas, are tumors that grow in the uterine walls. They are usually benign and can range in size and quantity. The exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, but they may be affected by hormones and genetics, as women are more likely to develop fibroids if they have a family member with the condition. Most fibroids do not cause any symptoms and do not require any treatment, however, in some cases they may lead to pregnancy complications. Uterine fibroids are most common in women over the age of 30 and during the reproductive years.
Statistics indicate that anywhere from 20 to 70 percent of women may develop uterine fibroids in their lifetime. This common condition is rarely serious, but it can be painful. To alleviate symptoms, women may seek clinical treatment. Historically, uterine fibroids would be removed surgically. Today, we have viable nonsurgical options like uterine fibroid embolization, UFE. We are proud to offer this service at Minimally Invasive Vascular Center.
What Are The Risk Factors Associated With Uterine Fibroids?
Studies suggest that a woman's risk of developing uterine fibroids stems from several factors.
- Age. Uterine fibroids are more commonly diagnosed in older women still in their reproductive years.
- Family history of uterine fibroids
- Vitamin D deficiency
- No history of pregnancy
- High blood pressure
- Ethnicity, statistics indicate that uterine fibroids are more common in African American women
- High consumption of soy-based foods or soy isoflavones in infancy or adulthood
Can Uterine Fibroids Lead To Pregnancy Complications?
There is a greater chance of complications during pregnancy and delivery if a woman has uterine fibroids. That said, not all women with fibroids do experience complications. In the majority of cases, pregnancy and delivery occur without incident. The risks that are associated with uterine fibroids during pregnancy include breech position, risk of needing a c-section due to the baby's position, and placental abruption, in which the placenta dislodges from the uterus before delivery. There is also a chance that labor will not progress well due to uterine fibroids. Women who have fibroids can become pregnant and carry full-term with zero complications. To manage risks, women should work closely with an obstetrician with experience supporting high-risk pregnancies.
Can Uterine Fibroids Cause Varicose Veins?
Some scientific data suggest that varicose veins may be a secondary effect of large uterine fibroids. The instigating factor is believed to be pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that travel through the pelvis to the legs. While there may be a correlation between the two conditions, varicose veins alone are not a reliable indication that a woman has uterine fibroids.
Can Uterine Fibroids Turn Into Cancer?
Fewer than one in 1,000 cases of uterine fibroids result in a cancer diagnosis. Doctors take great care to thoroughly assess all symptoms that may relate to uterine fibroids and identity if any stand out as unusual. Some studies suggest that a cancerous fibroid may be more apt to grow quickly and cause stomach pain. A cancerous fibroid may also cause post-menopausal bleeding. Other than these, all other symptoms remain the same.
How Can Uterine Fibroids Be Prevented?
There is no way to prevent fibroids seeing that there may be genetic components involved. However, clinical research has found that some women who consume high amounts of sugar may be more prone to uterine fibroids. In another study, researchers concluded that the risk of developing uterine fibroids may be lowered by consuming larger amounts of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, arugula, and collard greens.
What Are The Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are growths or benign masses that can form on the inside or outside of the uterus. In many cases, women do not experience any symptoms from uterine fibroids. If symptoms are present, the most common symptoms may include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Feeling of fullness
- Pelvic pressure
- Lower back pain
- Frequent urination
If uterine fibroids grow very large they may put pressure on the large bowel, causing painful bowel movements, constipation or hemorrhoids. In some cases, sexual intercourse may also be painful because of large uterine fibroids.
What Complications Can Uterine Fibroids Cause?
In rare cases, uterine fibroids may cause cause infertility or pregnancy complications. Uterine fibroids may prevent implantation and growth of an embryo. If the fibroids cause infertility or miscarriage, a doctor may recommend removing the fibroids before attempting another pregnancy. Fibroids present during pregnancy may increase the risk of premature delivery and cesarean section.
How Are Uterine Fibroids Diagnosed?
Uterine fibroids are commonly discovered during a pelvic exam. If fibroids are suspected, the doctor may confirm the diagnosis with blood tests and additional imaging tests that may include:
- MRI scan
How Can Uterine Fibroids Be Treated?
In cases where women do not experience any problems or symptoms with uterine fibroids, no treatment may be necessary as doctors may choose to just monitor the condition. Uterine fibroids usually grow slowly and tend to shrink after menopause, when reproductive hormones levels drop. When uterine fibroids cause uncomfortable symptoms, hormonal medications may be prescribed to shrink the fibroids. A common method used to treat uterine fibroids is a procedure called fibroid embolization. Fibroid embolization, is a minimally invasive procedure that blocks blood flow to uterine fibroids, shrinking or destroying the tumors that grow on the uterine walls. There are several other minimally invasive procedures available to treat uterine fibroids without the use of surgery. These procedures may include:
- Laparoscopic myomectomy
- Endometrial ablation and resection of fibroids
In cases where the uterine fibroids have grown very large, more traditional surgical methods such as an abdominal myomectomy or hysterectomy may be performed. A hysterectomy is an option only for women who longer want to have children, as the entire uterus is removed. Except for a hysterectomy, and while rare, there is a possibility that new fibroids may develop after all treatments have been performed.