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Posted on in Women's Health

Uterine Fibroids Can Be Painful

Not long ago, Brenda thought it was just part of being a woman. Not just her monthly period, but the pain and bleeding that bothered her throughout the month. Some days Brenda couldn’t work. She missed her daughter’s dance recital. Her constant need for a bathroom made her hesitate to go out with friends. And her pain took the romance out of sex with her husband.

Today, Brenda’s life is much better, since visiting her personal physician and learning three important facts: 1) Her problems are due to fibroids growing in her uterus, 2) they can be easily treated and 3) fibroids are benign, NOT cancerous.

What Are Fibroids?

The growths of mostly fibrous tissue, such as muscle, occur in 30%-50% of women during their childbearing years. An African-American or overweight woman has a higher risk of experiencing fibroids in her uterus. Women who’ve never been pregnant or have a family history of fibroids also face a higher risk.

The non-cancerous tumors vary in size from as small as a pea to as large as a melon. Generally, the growths are found in the wall of the uterus although some can be found between the uterus muscles or even outside the uterus. Scientists have not been able to determine what causes fibroids to appear and grow.

Symptoms

“Many women experience no symptoms and some women aren’t even aware they have these growths in their pelvic region,” says Gynecologist Dr. Michael Davidson of Advanced Women's Care. “However, some women will experience heavy bleeding during and between periods, pelvic pain, lower back pain, pain during sex and a frequent need to go to the bathroom. Once fibroids are identified and treated, these symptoms disappear.”

Fibroids & Pregnancy

The presence of fibroids can complicate the development of a baby, leading to pre-term delivery or even miscarriage. Treatment can improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Finding Out If You Have Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids are sometimes discovered during an annual pelvic exam. But a more accurate diagnosis is possible using ultrasound – either externally or through the vagina – or with an X-ray taken after filling the fallopian tubes and uterus with a special fluid designed to improve the X-ray image.

Temporary and Permanent Treatments

Four primary types of action can be taken to help women suffering from fibroids:

  • Medication. Temporary help for painful symptoms is sometimes as simple as taking ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Hormone Therapy. Some drugs reduce the ovaries’ estrogen production, which can shrink the fibroids by 50%. However, these drugs can also produce menopause-related symptoms, such as bone loss, mood swings, hot flashes and vaginal dryness. When the medication is stopped, the side effects stop as well.
  • Embolization. Small particles are injected into the blood vessels feeding the fibroids. The particles block the blood flow, killing off the fibroids.
  • Surgery. Two categories of surgery can offer relief. And both surgeries can be done using small or nearly invisible incisions.
    • Hysterectomy – the only absolute cure for fibroids – involves the removal of a woman’s uterus and possibly her cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries, too.

    • Myomectomy removes the fibroids, but leaves the uterus. A woman may become pregnant, but fibroids could develop again.

    To find a physician, click here.

 Sources include: McLeod Health, FDA Office of Women’s Health, National Women’s Health Network, Medical News Today, National Institutes of Health, www.health.ny.gov, Modern Drug Discovery (American Chemical Society), American Society for Reproductive Medicine

 

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