You may have uterine fibroids and not even know it. As many as 80% of women develop uterine fibroids during their reproductive years, according to the National Institutes of Health. For many, the fibroids cause no symptoms and aren’t noticeable at all.
What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus that typically appear during a woman’s childbearing years. The growths tend to shrink as estrogen levels in the body decrease. Other names for uterine fibroids are leiomyomas, myomas, and fibromas – but these names all reference the same thing. Fibroids are classified by size, shape, and location in the uterus. You can have a single fibroid or many.
Fibroids usually cause no harm, and many are not aware the fibroids are present. However, for some women, uterine fibroids cause painful and heavy menstrual bleeding, periods that last longer than a week, and pelvic pain. Heavy periods can lead to complications such as anemia and fatigue. Depending on their number and size, uterine fibroids can make it difficult to become pregnant.
Why Do Fibroids Develop?
It is not entirely clear why fibroids develop, although estrogen and progesterone appear to play a role in the growth of uterine fibroids. These are the hormones responsible for the thickening of uterine walls during the follicular phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Fibroids tend to shrink after menopause when the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body are significantly reduced.
Risk Factors for Uterine Fibroids
The following may increase your risk of developing fibroids:
- Family history of uterine fibroids
- Early onset of puberty
- Being African American
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Alcohol use
- Diet heavy in red meat and low in green vegetables
Diagnosis & Treatment of Fibroids
Your OB-GYN provider may feel irregularities in the shape of your uterus during a pelvic exam, which can indicate the presence of fibroids. Your Women’s HealthFirst provider may perform a gynecological ultrasound to confirm a diagnosis of uterine fibroids. Blood tests may also be ordered to rule out other potential causes of heavy periods and other symptoms, such as a thyroid disorder. In some cases, an MRI, hysterosalpingography, or hysteroscopy may be recommended to confirm the size, shape, location, and number of fibroids present.
Treatment of uterine fibroids tends to focus on relieving symptoms, such as hormone therapy that can reduce the severity of heavy periods and may also shrink the fibroids. There are also a variety of innovative noninvasive or minimally invasive procedures that can shrink or destroy existing fibroids.
Myomectomy, the surgical removal of fibroids, is often the treatment of choice when surgery is recommended. That is because this procedure can pinpoint and remove the bothersome fibroids while preserving healthy surrounding tissue in the uterus, which may allow a woman to become pregnant in the future. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest endometrial ablation or a hysterectomy when a future pregnancy isn’t desired.
Unless the uterus is removed entirely, as with a hysterectomy, there is always the chance new fibroids could grow.
There is no known way to prevent uterine fibroids – although some hormone-based contraceptives appear to help lower your risk of developing fibroids.
Uterine Fibroids Treatment in Cook County, IL
Are you experiencing heavy or painful periods and not sure why? Schedule a visit with one of our highly skilled and knowledgeable OB-GYN providers to rule out fibroids as the possible cause of your symptoms. Call Women’s HealthFirst at (847) 808-8884 or request an appointment now.
We look forward to serving all your women’s health needs at any of our five convenient locations throughout northwest suburban Chicago.