Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Uterine Fibroids

What are fibroids?

A fibroid is a tumor composed of smooth muscle with fibrous connective tissue. Fibroids develop in the uterus. 70 to 80 percent of women experience fibroids at some point in their lives, but most of the time, they never lead to symptoms or ever need treatment other than the observance. 

The most important thing to distinguish fibroids is their benign nature. They’re non-cancerous. Though many times fibroids start as cancer, they can never become cancerous. Because of this, keeping an eye on them can be a recommended approach.

Fibroids can range in number, size, and rate of growth in different patients. They can show up as small as a marble or as large as a grapefruit in some cases. Regardless of their number or size, many options exist for their treatment, many of which are offered by FiVe Clinics.

Facts about fibroids

Learn more about fibroids with these quick facts:

  • They are the most common form of tumor that appears in the reproductive organs
  • They are always benign in nature
  • Women approach greater risk the closer they get to menopause, and then the risk subsides, and they can shrink
  • They are most often discovered during routine pelvic examinations
  • Symptoms of fibroids include long periods, bleeding between periods, pain in the area, and painful sex
  • Fibroids have surgical, non-surgical, and minimally invasive options for treatment

different types of fibroids infographic

Fibroids in different forms

Fibroids can appear in many forms. The type of fibroid(s) preset affects the treatment options that are available to you. The main types of fibroids are:

Intramural fibroids

Intramural fibroids are the most common form. They are found in the wall of the uterus. They can grow and increase in size over time, eventually stretching the womb itself.

Subserosal fibroids

Subserosal fibroids grow outside of the uterus. They can also vary in size, and when extremely large, can change the appearance of the womb, making it appear larger on one side.

Pedunculated fibroids

Subserosal fibroids can develop stems, which then attach to the uterus, creating their own form of support. When this happens, they are known as pedunculated fibroids.

Submucosal fibroids

Submucosal fibroids develop not inside or outside of the wall but inside the middle muscle layer of the uterus. They are notably rarer than other types and can sometimes include a stalk.

How do fibroids happen?

An exact cause-effect relationship for fibroids is not known, but studies have concluded many connections. Most often, genetic components can tell whether or not a woman will develop fibroids, and no external factors are known to cause the development of fibroids.

Who is most at risk?

If you have fibroids in your family, those genetics are the leading factor in developing them yourself. Some other traits linked to fibroids include:

  • Age: Fibroids become more and more common as women approach menopause, after which they become less common and can actually shrink over time in size. This is one of the reasons a “watch and wait” approach can be recommended.
  • Ethnicity: For unknown reasons, African-American women experience fibroids more often than any other ethnicity.
  • Weight: As with many other health issues, those who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing fibroids. Those who are extremely overweight can have as much as three times higher likelihood.

What symptoms do fibroids cause?

Most of the time, fibroids come and go unnoticed without any symptoms, but not always. Women who have many or very large fibroids can experience symptoms like:

  • Pain and pressure in the pelvis
  • extended periods
  • bleeding between periods
  • urination more than usual
  • pain in the lower back
  • painful sex
  • difficulties getting pregnant

How are fibroids found?

Most fibroids are found during routine pelvic examinations and physicals. They feel like a firm or unusual lump in the abdomen or pelvic area. Once found, they are confirmed with technologies like MRI and ultrasound, which work in a majority of cases. When they don’t, Hysterosalpingogram (HSG), Hysterosonogram, Laparoscopy, and Hysteroscopy can be recommended.

Treatments for fibroids

When observation is not enough, fibroids require treatment, which comes in many types. They include:

Home remedies and natural fibroid treatments

Home remedies and exercises can help with fibroids. Acupuncture, yoga, massage, and heat therapies are known to have beneficial effects and some help with cramps.

Medication

A medication-only approach can often treat fibroids to the point where they post no health risk. Though they are not a cure, they can help to manage the pain and pressure that comes with large fibroids, avoiding the need for invasive options like surgery to remove them.

Hormone therapy and fibroids

Hormone therapies can be implemented to prevent fibroids from growing in size. When these are being taken, other medications that affect hormone levels, like birth control, should be stopped.

In some cases, starting birth control can be recommended. It has properties that can help control bleeding and can be used for these reasons even though they contribute to the growth of fibroids.

Never start birth control to help with fibroids. Speak with a doctor like our Dr. Hooman Khabiri at Five Clinics, who can help you diagnose your fibroids and decide on the best course of treatment. Medication plans need to be based on testing and the individual.

Other hormone therapies used to treat fibroids include GnRH antagonists, GnRH agonists, and SERMs. We will post more content soon on some of these other hormone treatments and all of the others soon!

Surgical treatment for fibroids

When medication and natural remedies are not successful or possible, surgery is used to remove large and numerous fibroids. This surgery is known as a myomectomy.

In an abdominal myomectomy, an incision is made in the abdomen, giving access to the uterus, where fibroids can be removed.

In extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be recommended.

Noninvasive and minimally invasive fibroid procedures

Other less-invasive options include laparoscopic procedures, using smaller incisions and small surgical tools that can be inserted, giving surgeons a camera-guided view to where they can remove fibroids.

As technology advances, less invasive options for many procedures become available. Some less invasive options for fibroid treatment are

Forced ultrasound surgery (FUS)

During FUS, lay inside of a specialized MRI machine that allows your doctors to see inside the body. Then, using high-energy sound waves, fibroids can be ablated from the uterus.

Myolysis

These procedures use heat sources like laser, heat, or cold to destroy fibroids.

Uterine artery emobolizaiton

Uterine artery embolization (or UAE) is a minimally invasive procedure used to eliminate the bleeding, pressure, and pain associated with fibroids. It is an alternative to surgery that preserves the uterus and will not affect a woman’s ability to conceive. It is an FDA-approved procedure that uses a catheter to inject tiny particles called microspheres to block targeted arteries and deprive them of blood. When this happens, fibroids decrease in size.

We will have a full post coming soon on Uterine artery embolization (UAE)!

Seek fibroid treatment in Ohio with FiVe Clinics

All forms of fibroid treatment are available with the doctors of FiVe Clinics. With locations in both Columbus and Hilliard, Ohio, we take pride in helping women in our community free themselves from the pain associated with fibroids. Get in touch with us today.

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