7 Warning Signs You May Have Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are a condition that is surprisingly common. Up to three quarters of all American women have or will suffer from fibroids during their childbearing years. Given their prevalence, every woman should know exactly what this condition is and how to spot it in order that they can arrange treatment should the fibroid cause pain or other problems.
What are Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop inside the muscle (myometrium) of the uterus. They are also sometimes called leiomyomas or simply myomas. They are usually benign and not generally associated with any increase in cancer risk although women whose fibroids grow very quickly will often be monitored just in case.
Fibroids develop when a single uterine cell starts to grow out of control and forms a solid mass.
Fibroids are named after the location in which they are found.
- Intramural fibroids are found in the muscle of the wall of the uterus.
- Those located in the uterine cavity are known as submucosal fibroids.
- Fibroids can also be found on the outside of the uterus (subserosal fibroids).
They can range from being too small to detect by the human eye to being so large that they distort and stretch the uterus up into the rib-cage. Some women have just one fibroid, others can suffer from multiple fibroids at any one time.
Fibroids – Warning Signs
Most women with fibroids suffer no symptoms at all. Others, particularly those with larger or more numerous fibroids may suffer one or more of the symptoms below.
The symptoms will depend to a great extent on the location of the fibroid and, generally, the larger the mass, the more extreme the symptom. If you notice any of these you should make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.
If the fibroids are located on the outside wall of the uterus close to the bladder, they can press against it causing a loss of bladder volume and requiring more frequent trips to the toilet.
In some women the fibroid prevents them from urinating even when their bladder is full. This can be both uncomfortable and dangerous.
If you suddenly find that you are unable to sleep through the night or use the toilet more often than normal or if you are unable to empty your bladder either completely or partially you should get it checked out.
In the same way that fibroids pressing against the bladder can cause problems, fibroids towards the back of the uterus can press on the rectum and make a sufferer feel full. They can also make it difficult to pass a motion and may sometimes cause a hemorrhoid to develop (if you suffer from hemorrhoids, you can use these natural remedies and these oils).
Pelvic Pain or Discomfort
It is not uncommon for fibroids, particularly large ones to cause a general feeling of discomfort in the pelvic region. In some women this is extreme enough to make it uncomfortable to bend over or even lie down. In others the symptom manifests as a vague feeling of heaviness or fullness.
More rarely a woman will feel an acute and very severe pain in the pelvic region. This often happens when the fibroid degenerates and can last from two weeks to a month. The by-products of the dying fibroid can also infect the bloodstream and local tissues causing fever.
Pelvic pain is also one of the warning signs for ovarian cysts.
Lower Back Pain
Back pain is a common problem with a number of causes. Occasionally, a fibroid located on the outer back wall of the uterus will press against the nerves of the spine and into the back muscles and can trigger intense pain. Because of the location of the fibroid this symptom may appear alongside rectal problems (see above).
Painful Sexual Intercourse
Depending on the location and size of the fibroid, a woman might notice that intercourse has become uncomfortable or even painful. The pain may be more evident in certain positions or at certain times of the month. This is also one of the 10 warning signs of cervical cancer.
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Women who suffer from submucosal fibroids often report suffering from an extremely heavy menstrual flow. This can be so heavy that it prevents them from leaving the house and will soak through even heavy protection in a very short space of time. The bleeding is often accompanied by painful cramping.
Such bleeding is never normal and should always be investigated by a doctor. Women with heavy periods may develop anemia which can cause them to feel faint, tired and to have headaches. For other warning signs of anemia, read my post about the top signs of iron deficiency.
Long Periods or Spotting
Some women with fibroids may experience periods that last longer than seven days or suffer from spotting between periods. As with heavy bleeding, cramping and pain is not uncommon.
What Causes Uterine Fibroids?
Nobody really knows what causes fibroids but they typically occur only in women of childbearing age. It is thought that genetic abnormalities, the body’s response to growth factors and the response to injury may all play a role in the development of fibroids.
It is thought that estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle and prepare the body for pregnancy, may also play a role as fibroid cells are known to contain more receptors for these hormones than normal uterine cells.
Fibroids – Risk Factors
The main risk factor for fibroids appears to be being of childbearing age. Girls who have not yet had their first period and women who have gone through the menopause do not typically suffer from fibroids. Fibroids may grow during the first trimester of pregnancy but often shrink later on or after the birth.
There appears to be a genetic element to fibroids. If a close female relative has had fibroids you are more likely to develop them. African American women are more likely than Caucasian women to develop fibroids and tend to develop them at a younger age – often noticing symptoms in their 20s compared with Caucasian sufferers whose symptoms more often come on in their 30s and 40s.
Women whose periods started young are at greater risk of developing fibroids in later life as are those who eat a lot of red meat and a less fruit and vegetables. High blood pressure increases the risk of fibroids as does drinking alcohol.