Uterine fibroids are infamous for causing painful, heavy periods. But if you have fibroids, you’re probably well aware of another problem that isn’t given nearly as much attention as it deserves:
Lower urinary tract symptoms.
For many women, feeling like you have to go all the time, even at night, can annoyingly disrupt your everyday life and even be the cause of embarrassing accidents. But take heart. Research shows women can find relief without settling for invasive treatments like hysterectomy.
A study published in the International Urogynecology Journal showed that minimally invasive uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) significantly improved several lower urinary tract symptoms and urinary-related quality of life scores among women with fibroids.1
The study included 57 women who averaged 44 years of age and who suffered from fibroid-related lower urinary tract symptoms.1 Between March 2008 and May 2010, they each underwent UFE. Before treatment and 3 months afterward, women completed questionnaires and a 48-hour bladder diary, describing the intensity of lower urinary tract symptoms and how these symptoms impacted their quality of life. Researchers found that at 3 months post-UFE, women reported a dramatic improvement in the number of both daytime and night-time voids and urinary-related quality of life.
These positive results have supported other research that has shown UFE to successfully treat common fibroid-related urinary symptoms. A small study published last year involving nine postmenopausal women with fibroids confirmed urinary frequency as the most common symptom reported (77.8%).2 After being treated with UFE, eight out of the nine women (88.9%) experienced complete resolution of their fibroid symptoms.
A common growth of the female reproductive system, uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that develop in the wall of the uterus. Studies show that by age 50, around three out of four women will develop fibroids, with African American women being disproportionately affected.3 Most women who have fibroids will never experience symptoms. But those who do aren’t strangers to heavy menstrual bleeding, anemia, pelvic pain and pressure, painful intercourse, and bothersome feelings of urinary urgency and frequency.
How does UFE treat these symptoms?
UFE works by blocking blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink over time and symptoms to resolve in approximately 90% of cases.4 In comparison to surgical options like hysterectomy that removes the entire uterus, UFE is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure associated with fewer major complications and a shorter recovery time.5 What’s more, it’s considered a safe and established treatment option that’s covered by most health insurance plans.
If you’re experiencing fibroid-related urinary symptoms and want to learn more about UFE, contact an interventional radiologist near you and discover how it can help you find relief.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a Freelance Writer and Editor, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and Certified Holistic Life Coach. She has master’s degrees in English Education and Nutrition. Through her writing, she empowers readers to live optimally by building awareness surrounding issues that impact health and wellbeing. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad, and volunteering in her community. She is a paid consultant of Merit Medical.
- Shveiky, D., Iglesia, C. B., Antosh, D. D., et al. (2013). The effect of uterine fibroid embolization on lower urinary tract symptoms. Int Urogynecol J, Aug; 24(8): 1341-1345.
- Lee, S. J., Kim, M. D., Kim, G. M. (2016). Uterine artery embolization for symptomatic fibroids in postmenopausal women. Clin Imaging, Jan-Feb; 40(1): 106-109.
- Baird, D. D., Dunson, D. B., Hill, M. C., et al. (2003). High cumulative incidence of uterine leiomyoma in black and white women: Ultrasound evidence.Am J Obstet Gynecol, Jan; 188(1), 100–107.
- McLucas, B., Voorhees, W. D., & Elliott, S. (2016). Fertility after uterine artery embolization: a review. Minim Invasive Ther Allied Technol, 25(1): 1-7.
- Ruuskanen, A., Hippeläinen, M., Sipola, P., et al. (2010). Uterine artery embolization versus hysterectomy for leiomyomas: primary and 2-year follow-up results of a randomised prospective clinical trial. Eur Radiol, Oct; 20(10): 2524-2532.