What are fibroids?
Fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in or on the uterus. Fibroids are composed of muscle tissue and are typically round or semi-round in shape. They can vary in size, ranging from the size of a small grape to a grapefruit or larger.
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown, but they are influenced by hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone. Fibroids are more common during the childbearing years when hormone levels are higher, and they tend to shrink after menopause when hormone production decreases.
What are the different kinds of fibroids?
Fibroids can be classified based on their location within the uterus:
- Intramural fibroids: These are the most common type and develop within the muscular wall of the uterus.
- Submucosal fibroids: These fibroids grow just beneath the inner lining of the uterus and can protrude into the uterine cavity.
- Subserosal fibroids: These fibroids grow on the outside surface of the uterus and may form pedunculated (attached by a stalk) growths.
- Pedunculated fibroids: These fibroids are attached to the uterus by a stalk, either inside the uterus or on its outer surface.
What are the most common symptoms of fibroids?
- Heavy menstrual bleeding: Fibroids and heavy periods and fibroids and blot clots are one of the most common symptoms reported by patients. Larger fibroids or those located near the uterine lining can distort the uterine cavity, leading to heavier periods. You may experience prolonged bleeding, passing large blood clots, or needing to change sanitary protection frequently.
- Prolonged periods: Fibroids and periods that last a very long time is another common symptom. The presence of fibroids can interfere with the normal contraction and relaxation of the uterine muscles, resulting in prolonged bleeding.
- Painful periods: Fibroids and pelvic pain is also something fibroids patients experience quite frequently. The size and location of the fibroids can put pressure on surrounding organs, leading to discomfort.
- Missed periods: Fibroids and missed periods is yet another often reported symptom. In a patient with fibroids the cycle length or timing of the periods becomes unpredictable. Fibroids can disrupt the normal hormonal balance, affecting the regularity of the menstrual cycle.
- Spotting between periods: In some cases, fibroids can cause intermenstrual spotting or bleeding. This can be due to the fibroid’s effect on the uterine lining or changes in hormone levels.
- Gas and Bloating: Fibroids and bloating and gas is another common complaint. Depending on the size and location of the fibroids, they may exert pressure on the nearby organs, including the intestines and the colon. This pressure can lead to digestive discomfort, such as bloating and gas.
What treatments are available for the fibroids and periods-related symptoms?
Several treatment options are available to manage fibroids and the related symptoms affecting periods. The choice of treatment depends on factors such as the severity of symptoms, the size and number of fibroids, desire for future fertility, and overall health. Here are some common treatment approaches:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These can help reduce pain and menstrual cramps associated with fibroids.
- Hormonal birth control: Oral contraceptives, hormonal patches, or intrauterine devices (IUDs) releasing progestin can help regulate menstrual bleeding and relieve symptoms.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists: These medications induce a temporary menopause-like state, reducing estrogen levels and shrinking fibroids. They are typically used for a short period before surgery to improve symptoms or as a preoperative measure.
- Minimally invasive procedures:
- Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE): In this procedure, tiny particles are injected into the arteries supplying the fibroids, cutting off their blood supply and causing them to shrink.
- Endometrial ablation: This procedure targets the lining of the uterus to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding, but it is generally not recommended if fibroids are the primary cause.
- Surgical interventions:
- Myomectomy: this surgical procedure involves the removal of fibroids while preserving the uterus, which can be done through various minimally invasive techniques like laparoscopic, robotic, hysteroscopic methods, or a combination.
- Hysterectomy: It involves the removal of the uterus and is considered a definitive treatment for fibroids. Hysterectomy is typically recommended for severe symptoms, large fibroids, or when none of the less invasive treatments are possible.
Do all patients experience fibroids and periods-related symptoms?
No, not all patients experience symptoms related to their fibroids and periods. In fact, many women may have fibroids without any noticeable symptoms at all. The presence and severity of symptoms can vary greatly, with some women with small fibroids that report no noticeable changes in their menstrual cycle or overall well-being.
The specific symptoms and their severity can depend on factors such as the size, number, and location of the fibroids.
It’s also worth noting that symptoms can change over time. Some women may experience worsening symptoms, while others may have symptom improvement or resolution. Hormonal fluctuations, changes in fibroid size, and other factors can contribute to these variations.
If you suspect you have fibroids or are experiencing abnormal menstrual symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and guidance. They can assess your condition, provide an accurate diagnosis, and discuss appropriate treatment options based on your specific situation.