Fibroids are benign (noncancerous) growths in the wall of the uterus. The uterus is the organ where a fetus grows during pregnancy.
Fibroids are common. They may be very small or they could grow to 8 or more inches in diameter. Most fibroids remain inside the uterus. Sometimes, they may stick out and affect nearby organs. It is common for there to be more than one fibroid.
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The cause of fibroids is unknown.
Fibroid growth is stimulated by female reproductive hormones. As a result: Fibroids grow larger during pregnancy then shrink after childbirth.
Fibroids become less of a problem after
menopause. However, symptoms may return with
hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Genetics may make some women more prone to fibroids. Substances that control blood vessel growth may also affect fibroid growth.
African American women are at increased risk. Other factors that affect your risk of fibroids include: Risk increases with age until menopauseFamily history
Obesity and high blood pressure may also be linked to fibroids.
There may be no symptoms, or they may be mild or severe. This depends on the size and location of the growths.
Symptoms may include: Pelvic pain or pressureHeavy menstrual bleedingClots in menstrual flowLong periodsBleeding between periodsIncreased cramping during periodsPain during sexFrequent need to urinateConstipationBloatingAbdominal swellingLow back or leg painInfertility
by blocking the fallopian tubes
If menstrual bleeding is heavy, you may be develop iron-deficiency anemia. Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia include fatigue and exercise intolerance. If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Most fibroids are found during routine pelvic exams.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: Abdominal ultrasoundTransvaginal ultrasoundCT
Most women with fibroids do not have symptoms and do not need treatment. Your doctor may recommend monitoring any changes on a regular basis. Treatment may be done later if needed.
Your doctor may advise: Over-the-counter pain relievers to ease mild symptomsNonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and relieve crampingPrescription pain medication—if pain cannot be managed with medications above
Hormone medications may be an option if you are not trying to become pregnant. These drugs can shrink fibroids, reduce abnormal bleeding, and lessen pain. However, fibroids can return after you stop taking the drugs. These drugs may be used to make fibroids smaller just before surgery.
Surgery may be considered if: The uterus becomes extremely largeThe fibroids are interfering with fertilitySymptoms are severe
Surgical procedures include: Myomectomy—An incision is made in the abdomen. The fibroids are removed from the uterus.
Hysterectomy—The entire uterus is removed. You will be unable to have children if you have this surgery.
Other options include: Uterine fibroid embolization—This is a minimally invasive procedure. It blocks blood flow to the fibroids. This will make the fibroids shrink.Focused ultrasound therapy—Energy is centered on the fibroid to destroy it. This procedure may not be ideal for those who are overweight, have very large fibroids, or have extensive scars from prior abdominal surgeries.
There are no current guidelines to prevent uterine fibroids.
Fibroids. Healthy Women website. Available at:
http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/fibroids. Updated August 9, 2011. Accessed October 30, 2014.
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ufe. Updated August 5, 2013. Accessed October 30, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Karli-Rae Kerrschneider, RN
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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