What should I know about fibroids

All you need to know about Fibroids

Fibroids are one of the most common complaints that affect women’s health. Someone you know may have had a fibroid removed. Of course, knowing exactly what is happening puts your mind at ease and helps you get closer to the treatment that you need.

What are fibroids?

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths made of muscle and fibrous tissue that develop in or around your womb (uterus).

What causes fibroids?

No one really knows. However, fibroids have been linked to oestrogen (the female reproductive hormone) produced by your ovaries. As a result, fibroids are more prevalent in females in their childbearing years. Due to their sensitivity to this hormone, it may grow during pregnancy and shrink after the baby is born. Menopause may see them disappear altogether.

Who is at risk of having fibroids?

Women who are in their reproductive years are most vulnerable. If you have a family history of fibroids, are overweight or obese, started menstruation early, or have undergone hormonal treatments you may be at risk for fibroids.

Are there different types of fibroids?

Not all fibroids are created equally, they are often classified depending on where they are located within the uterus.

-Intramural fibroids are found within the wall of the uterus.
-Subserous fibroids are found in the outer layer of the uterine wall.
-Submucous fibroids are found in the inner layer of the uterine wall and may protrude into the uterus.
-Pedunculated fibroids grow on a stalk in the uterine cavity or outside the womb

The following section is designed to answer any questions you may have on fibroids.

How can I know that I have fibroids?

Your doctor may do an ultrasound to give you a diagnosis but the symptoms that may allude to fibroids are as follow:
-Bloating in the lower abdomen
-Painful periods
-Lower backache
-Frequent urination or constipation
-Anemia due to heavy menstrual bleeding.
-Heavy periods
-Bleeding in between periods
-Vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse

Are fibroids a serious condition?

They can be serious even becoming life-threatening if they are very large and you are experiencing the following symptoms:
-Abdominal pain
-Excessive blood loss
-Constipation with painful bowel movements

Can uterine fibroids turn into cancer?

On the rare occasion, a fibroid may become cancerous. The chance of this happening is less than 1 in 1000. It is called a leiomyosarcoma at this stage. Fortunately, fibroids are almost always benign.

What exactly does fibroid pain feel like?

Pain caused by fibroids often feels like a dull vague ache in the lower abdomen. Large fibroids often cause pressure in the lower abdomen and pelvis. An enlarged uterus may cause discomfort if you try to lie on your stomach, bend over or exercise.

Will fibroids affect my fertility?

Fibroids can affect your ability to have a child at every stage. Your ability to conceive can be affected depending on the location and size of the fibroids within the uterus. The uterine cavity can become distorted by large submucosal fibroids preventing effective implantation of a fertilized egg. Fibroids may also cause miscarriages or prevent you from carrying a fetus to full term. Vaginal delivery may also be made difficult by fibroids. However, it is not all bad news, most of the time fibroids will not affect your pregnancy.

Other conditions that affect fertility are as follows:
-Some ovarian cysts- Furthermore, some ovarian cysts can be associated with subfertility, but it depends on the type.
-Endometriotic cysts- This condition causes uterine tissue to grow on the ovaries and/or the fallopian tubes. These irregularities can affect a woman’s ability to conceive.

What are my fibroid treatment options?

Depending on your age, your doctor will design a treatment plan for you. If you are perimenopausal, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)to help with the pain. Tranexamic acid helps lessen the amount of bleeding.

Another option is hormonal therapy which can be administered progesterone injections, or the pill. The idea is to manage the fibroids until menopause, where they most likely disappear on their own. If a woman is far from menopause and her symptoms are overwhelming, surgery may be the sensible choice. Surgical treatment to remove fibroids can be done via open surgery (laparotomy) or keyhole (laparoscopy or hysteroscopy).

When should uterine fibroids be removed?

Your doctor after trying various treatments may suggest that you have your fibroids removed. This is a decision that is not arrived at lightly.
Your doctor may make this recommendation if:
-Your bleeding is so heavy that it is affecting your health and you are unable to carry out your normal day to day duties.
-You have an infection as a result of the fibroid
-Your fibroids are causing terrible back pain

What is the difference between fibroids and cysts?

Fibroids are formed in the uterus and are made of dense tissue and muscle. Cysts, on the other hand, can be formed anywhere in the body but for this discussion, you should know that they often grow on the ovaries and are filled with fluid.

It is not entirely clear why fibroids develop, but lifestyle factors are thought to influence their formation. They also appear to increase in size when oestrogen and progesterone levels are elevated for example in pregnancy. Ovarian cysts develop because of your menstrual cycle.

What steps can I take to prevent fibroids?

Fibroid prevention lies in lifestyle changes. The following measures may lower the risk of fibroids.

  • Consume a healthy balanced diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Consume less salt to lower blood pressure
  • Get enough vitamin D via supplements or sunshine.
  • Refrain from smoking

Fibroids are not life-threatening most of the time, with the proper treatment plan they can be managed or treated allowing you to go about your daily affairs with no interruption.

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