A uterine fibroid is one of the most widespread kinds of (not cancerous) tumors in a woman's uterus or womb. These fibroids expand along with the uterine wall. They might grow as a solitary tumor or maybe in clusters. These uterine fibroids can cause pelvic pain, extreme menstrual bleeding, and frequent urination.
The uterine fibroids are generally very slow-growing tumors made from fibrous tissue and the muscle connected to the uterus lining. They come into sight and breed in women during their childbearing years.
Fibroids are usually benign, meaning they are not cancerous, and most women with fibroids do not experience any symptoms. However, some women may experience heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, frequent urination, constipation, and other symptoms depending on the size and location of the fibroids. In rare cases, fibroids can cause complications during pregnancy, such as preterm labor or a blocked birth canal.
Causes of uterine fibroids
- Genetic factors: Uterine fibroids tend to run in families, and women with a history of fibroids are more likely to develop them. Genetic mutations and changes in gene expression may lead to the formation of fibroids.
- Hormonal factors: Uterine fibroids are known to grow in response to estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that play a crucial role in the female reproductive system. Fibroids contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal uterine muscle cells, suggesting that hormones may play a role in their development.
- Other growth factors: The body has chemicals that help in tissue maintenance, such as insulin-like growth factors, which may contribute to the development of fibroid tumors.
- Extracellular matrix (ECM): ECM causes your cells to stick together. Fibroids are fibrous because they contain more ECM than normal cells. ECM also contains growth factors and causes cells to change.
Symptoms of uterine fibroids
- Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Backache or leg pains
- Pain during sex
- A feeling of fullness/bloating in the lower abdomen.
How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the uterus and other pelvic organs. It can help identify the size, location, and number of fibroids.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the uterus and other pelvic organs. It can provide more detailed information about the size, location, and characteristics of fibroids.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan uses X-rays and computer technology to create images of the uterus and other pelvic organs.
- Hysteroscopy: A hysteroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a thin, lighted tube with a camera to look inside the uterus. It can help in the detection of fibroids in the uterine lining.
- Hysterosonography: A technician inserts saline into your uterine cavity to enlarge it. It allows them to see fibroids growing into your uterus (submucosal fibroids) and the uterine lining.
Treatment for uterine fibroids
- Medications: Certain medications such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, progestin-releasing intrauterine devices (IUDs), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help manage symptoms.
- Hormonal therapy: Birth control pills or other forms of hormonal therapy are suggested to help regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce bleeding and pain.
- Myomectomy: This surgical treatment involves removing the fibroids while leaving the uterus intact. It is done when a woman wishes to protect her fertility.
- Hysterectomy: This is a surgical procedure to remove the entire uterus and is usually recommended for women who have completed their families or for those whose symptoms are not responding to other treatments.
- Uterine artery embolization (UAE): This minimally invasive procedure involves blocking the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink and die.
- Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound surgery (MRgFUS): This is a non-invasive procedure that uses high-intensity focused ultrasound waves to destroy the fibroids.
Note: The best treatment option for uterine fibroids depends on several factors, including the severity of symptoms, the size and location of the fibroids, and the woman's age and desire to have children. Discuss treatment options with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for everyone.
Risks related to fibroid treatments
Yes, there are potential risks associated with fibroid treatments. Surgical treatments such as hysterectomy and myomectomy carry the risks associated with any major surgery, such as bleeding, infection and adverse reactions to anesthesia. Myomectomy can sometimes lead to scarring or damage to the uterus, which may impact future fertility.
Non-surgical treatments, such as uterine artery embolization and magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound surgery, may also carry some risks, such as pain, infection, or unintended damage to nearby organs. It's important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of different treatment options with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision.
Uterine fibroids are a common health condition that affects many women worldwide. While they are usually benign and asymptomatic, some women may experience painful and disruptive symptoms that require treatment. There are various treatment options available for uterine fibroids, ranging from medication to surgery. Each option has its benefits and risks, and it's essential to discuss them with your healthcare provider to determine which is best for you.