Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus and are a highly common condition; fibroids are usually benign (not cancerous).
Fibroids may grow as a single tumor, or there can be multiples ranging in size within the uterus. Women are most likely to develop fibroids in their 40s and early 50s. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), up to eighty percent of women have them by the age of 50.
Risk Factors & Causes of Fibroids
While it is unclear as to why fibroids occur, several factors may influence their development including hormones, family history, and pregnancy. Women at greatest risk for developing fibroids have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Being pregnant
- Having a family history of fibroids
- Being 30 years old or older
- Being African-American
- Being overweight
Common Fibroid Symptoms
Not all women who have fibroids experience symptoms, but it is important to know what to look out for in case a fibroid occurs. Symptoms may include:
- Constipation — A pelvic exam may be needed with this particular symptom since constipation can occur for a number of reasons. However, it is commonly reported in women with fibroids.
- Frequent urination — Urinating more than usual is a sign of potential fibroids in the uterine lining
- Pain — Pain that is associated with fibroids can occur in the pelvic region, lower back, and lower legs. The nerves for the lower half of the body are closely located next to the area where fibroids develop. The intensity of the pain varies depending on the size of the fibroids.
- Excessive bleeding — If you notice you are having abnormally heavy bleeding that lasts eight days or more in duration, you may have fibroids developing.
- Miscarriages — Frequent and recurrent miscarriages can be an indicator of fibroids since they line the uterus walls and occupy space the fetus would otherwise occupy.
- Excessive cramping — Cramping is a normal side effect of the menstrual cycle, but fibroid growth in the uterus can cause the muscles in the abdominal area to cramp up and cause excessive cramping at times outside menstruation.
- Swelling in the abdomen —If large fibroids develop in the uterine lining, there is a chance this could show as swelling in the abdominal area. Many women tend to mistake this symptom for weight gain, but studies suggest that more than half of women who suffer from fibroids experience noticeable abdominal swelling.
When to See a Doctor about Fibroids
While numerous symptoms may point to fibroids, fibroids are not the only possibility. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call your doctor to schedule an exam. The doctor may find that you have fibroids after conducting a pelvic exam to check your uterus, ovaries, and vagina. The doctor will be able to identify the fibroid manually during an ordinary pelvic exam as a lump or mass on the uterus.
Lowering Your Risk— How Advanced Gynecology Can Help
The risk factors for fibroids may be mitigated by making healthy lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms or consider yourself at high-risk for uterine fibroids, make an appointment for screening which could include an ultrasound or a pelvic exam.
For more information, schedule an appointment today or call us to speak with one of our patient coordinators.