Uterine Fibroids: Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
In most cases, women are not aware that they have uterine fibroids, because very often there are no symptoms. The fibroids are most frequently discovered during routine pelvic exams or during prenatal ultrasound testing. In women who do experience symptoms, these can become noticeable because of the size(s) or location of the fibroid(s) in the uterus. Women with a larger number of fibroids may have increased likelihood of experiencing symptoms. Common uterine fibroid symptoms include the following:
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Leg pain
- Difficulties in emptying bladder
- Frequent urination
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Menstrual bleeding for more than seven days
- Unexplained Weight Gain
- Loss of Libido
- Painful Sex
You should be examined by your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Persistent pelvic pain
- Menstrual periods lasting longer than 7 days
- Very heavy menstrual bleeding
- Painful menstrual periods
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- Difficulties in emptying the bladder
IMPORTANT: Obtain medical care immediately if you experience sudden sharp pain in the pelvic area or extreme vaginal bleeding.
Uterine Fibroids: What are They?
Uterine fibroids are benign (noncancerous) tissue growths inside the uterus. These fibroids are very common, and they can develop at various stages of life. Uterine fibroids (leiomyomas or myomas) often become detectable by gynecological examination during women’s reproductive years. It is extremely rare for cancer to develop from a fibroid of this type. Therefore, these fibroids are generally not associated with risk of cancer.
The fibroids are categorized by their location inside, or in the vicinity of, the uterus. Those that bulge and protrude inside the cavity of the uterus are classified as submucosal fibroids. Those growing in the muscular wall of the uterus are known as intramural fibroids. And those which project outside the uterus are classed as subserosal fibroids.
Many fibroids are so small that they are not visible to the human eye. Others grow in size enough to enlarge and distort the shape of the uterus. A woman may have just one fibroid or many. In extreme cases, multiple fibroids expand the uterus to the extent that it touches the ribs.
Causes of Uterine Fibroids
The prevailing medical opinion is that a fibroid is formed when a single stem cell repeatedly divides in the smooth uterine muscular tissue of the uterus (the myometrium), until a firm, rubbery mass is formed and is distinguishable from nearby non-fibroid tissue.
The cause(s) of these uterine fibroids remain(s) unknown. However, clinical experience and research indicate that the following factors appear to be associated with such fibroids:
- Hormones — During each menstrual cycle, the two female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, stimulate development throughout the uterine lining, in preparation of the uterus for pregnancy. This natural process apparently promotes fibroid growth. The fibroids contain greater amounts of estrogen and progesterone receptors than do the normal muscle cells of the uterus. Alternatively, the decreases in these hormones during menopause appears to account for the tendency of fibroids to shrink in size after menopause.
- Non-hormonal growth factors — Fibroid growth may also be affected by other growth factors, such as insulin-like substances that assist the body in maintaining tissue.
- Genetic changes — Many fibroids are found to contain changes in genes which are unlike those in normal muscle cells of the uterus.
Patterns of uterine fibroid growth vary. Fibroids may develop rapidly or slowly. Or, they may discontinue growing and stay the same size. Growth of some fibroids may stop, start, and stop again. Others may shrink in size. In many cases, fibroids that are detectable during pregnancy shrink, or entirely disappear as the uterus returns to a normal size after pregnancy.
Risk Factors of Uterine Fibroids
Other than being a woman of childbearing age, few risk factors are known to be associated with uterine fibroids. These few factors which may have potential effects on development of fibroids include:
- Environmental factors — using birth control, beginning menstruation at an early age, drinking alcohol, Vitamin D deficiency, obesity, and/or maintaining a diet higher than recommended in red meat and lower than recommended in green vegetables may place you at increased risk for fibroid development.
- Race — African American women are at higher risk for developing fibroids than women of other racial origins. Additionally, African American women are more likely to develop fibroids at earlier ages, and are at higher risk of developing larger fibroids or greater numbers of fibroids.
- Heredity — Your risk of developing uterine fibroids is higher if your sister or mother has had fibroids.
Complications of Uterine Fibroids
Typically, uterine fibroids are not dangerous. However, these can be a cause of discomfort. Additionally, fibroids may result in complications, including anemia, in cases of significant blood loss.
About VIP Fibroid Center
We have helped many Bay area women manage symptoms such as pain or heavy menstrual bleeding caused by uterine fibroids. We are among the first to utilize the latest and most innovative methodologies in fibroid embolization. And, our objective is to help our patients avoid fibroid surgery.
Treatment options: Women need to be fully informed about their options for treatment of uterine fibroids in order to avoid unnecessary surgery. In cases that do involve surgery, we provide the most minimally invasive approach, with outpatient procedures that avoid a hospital stay. Such procedures involve no loss of blood, and they permit patients to quickly resume their usual activities.
Level of patient care: We are committed to providing our patients with the highest quality of uterine fibroid treatment in the San Francisco Bay area. Our focus is on providing healthcare that is personalized to meet our patients’ unique concerns in a modern, comfortable, welcoming environment. Our friendly, helpful staff strive to ensure that our patients have the best possible experience.
For Additional Information
For more information about uterine fibroids, or to make an appointment, contact us at VIP Fibroid Center. Dr. Anup Singh and Dr. Rajeev Tandon have been proudly serving patients’ needs for a San Francisco Bay area uterine fibroid specialist for more than 15 years, including patients from San Jose and throughout the greater San Francisco Bay area.