Every day, many women are plagued by painful periods, excessive bleeding, or frequent urination. These symptoms may seem to have no relief. But what some of these women do not know is that they are suffering from a common condition known as uterine fibroids.
Some studies suggest that 20-40% of women over 35 years of age have fibroids. Evidence also suggests that African-American women have a higher risk of developing them. In most cases, fibroids don’t cause any symptoms. But for some women, they can lead to very painful menstrual periods or other issues with the reproductive organs.
So how do you know if you have uterine fibroids? And if you do, what treatment options are available to you?
Some of the symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
Excessive bleeding: One of the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids is excessive menstrual bleeding. This can be a terrible inconvenience. Severe bleeding may cause you to stay home from work, school, or other activities while you recover. The bleeding can also last a lot longer and may take place in between periods.
Bloating: Uterine fibroids can cause you to always feel “full” in your lower abdomen. This is often referred to as pelvic pressure or pelvic pain. This occurs when fibroids grow and put pressure on the organs surrounding the uterus. The severity of the pelvic pressure depends on the location of the fibroids.
Frequent urination: The uterus is not the only organ affected by fibroids. They can also put pressure on the bladder, causing you to take frequent trips to the bathroom. Fibroids may put pressure on the bowel, causing constipation or bloating.
Other symptoms of uterine fibroids include pain during sexual intercourse, pain in the back of the legs, or anemia.
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms and they are preventing you from accomplishing your everyday activities, you should speak with a healthcare provider who can diagnose the cause of the symptoms.
However, most women who have uterine fibroids may not have any symptoms. Having regular pelvic exams can be helpful for early detection of fibroids.
Fibroids are usually found by an abdominal or pelvic exam. Your healthcare provider can often feel the fibroids with his or her fingers. It is usually a painless lump on the uterus. Your provider may also order an imaging test, such as an ultrasound or MRI, to confirm the diagnosis.
If you begin to suffer from any of the above symptoms at any point, or otherwise suspect you may have uterine fibroids, schedule a full gynecological exam as soon as possible.
The best treatment option varies from one woman to the next. You will need to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine what is best for your situation.
Mild fibroid symptoms can often be treated with medications. Over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen can help reduce pain. You may also want to take an iron supplement if you are bleeding heavily to prevent anemia.
Your symptoms may be too severe for over-the-counter medications or supplements. In that case you may need to have a procedure to relieve the pain.
Surgical procedures, such as myomectomy or hysterectomy, can be used to treat uterine fibroids. Some women may also be candidates for Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). This is a less invasive procedure that cuts off blood supply to the fibroids.
UFE is performed by interventional radiologists. They use X-ray equipment to guide them as they thread a thin tube into the blood vessels that supply blood to the fibroids. Then, small bubble-like materials are injected into the blood flow to block the vessels around the fibroids. This causes the fibroids to shrink. The procedure lasts less than an hour and is performed as an outpatient procedure.
If you are suffering from symptoms of uterine fibroids, get in touch with your healthcare provider. If you want to see if you are a candidate for UFE, we have a tool that makes it easy to find a physician in your area who performs the procedure. All you have to do is enter your zip code to get a list of nearby physicians.
PLEASE NOTE: The above information should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.