What are fibroids?

Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths of muscular fibers that can range in size from very small to as large as a melon. Although the process involved in the development and growth is not entirely understood, hormonal fluctuations appear to play a pivotal role – in fact, for most women, they tend to shrink once a woman enters menopause. Women with a family history of fibroids are more likely to develop the growths themselves. However, all women are susceptible to them. A stressful, unhealthy lifestyle may also play a factor.

What are the causes of fibroids?

Research is starting to point out that certain chemicals in hair products – especially hair straighteners or relaxers – may have a link to fibroid growth. Other factors include stress, unhealthy lifestyles, and obesity.

What symptoms are associated with fibroids?

The most common symptoms are cramping, heavy “flows” or menstrual bleeding, prolonged menstrual bleeding (sometimes can be for a week or longer) and the patient’s report that they “look pregnant”. All of this is due to the fact that the bigger the fibroids are the bigger the stomach distention is. Fibroids tend to extend the stomach the larger they get.

Depending on their size and other factors symptoms may include:

  • irregular or very heavy periods
  • spotting or bleeding between periods
  • very painful periods
  • pelvic pressure or discomfort
  • urinary incontinence or the need to urinate frequently
  • Iron-deficiency anemia from blood loss

Can I get pregnant if I have fibroids?

The short answer is yes.

Fibroids frequently cause irregular bleeding which can make it more difficult for an egg to be fertilized. Also, although conception may take place while fibroids are present, if they grow during pregnancy, they can cause complications. For that reason, women who have fibroids or a history of fibroids will probably need to be closely monitored throughout their pregnancy.

What techniques are used to diagnose fibroids?

Many fibroids are found during a pelvic exam followed by an MRI or ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, a minimally-invasive procedure called a colposcopy can be performed. This procedure uses a flexible, lighted scope to see inside the uterus so fibroids can be evaluated.

How are fibroids treated?

If a fibroid is not causing symptoms, it may not need treatment. However, when it is symptomatic, several treatment options are available. One of the most popular options is hormone therapy designed to help shrink the fibroids without the need for surgical intervention.

Uterine embolization of the artery or uterine embolization of the fibroids is a procedure in which a thin tube is inserted through an artery and directed to the uterus. The doctor will then use plastic beads (microbeads) to block the arteries that feed the fibroids. After the procedure, the fibroid is no longer getting blood and begins to die. This technique is also not appropriate for women who wish to become pregnant.

Minimally-invasive procedures may also be performed to remove the fibroid or to cut off the blood flow so the fibroids are deprived of the blood and nutrients they need to grow. When symptoms are very severe or fibroids are recurrent and a patient chooses to, a hysterectomy (not to be confused with a hysteroscopy) may be the best solution. But it is all patient-dependent. 

There are many options available and we go through all of them with each patient to find the one that will work best for you. Remember, many treatment options are available. You shouldn’t have to live with the pain and complications visit a gynecologist specializing in fibroids at BG today!

Book an appointment with a fibroids specialist today

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