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Uterine Fibroids: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Cost

Last Updated: Sep 28, 2022

What Are Uterine Fibroids?

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Uterine Fibroids, also known as myomas, are abnormal tissue growth in one’s uterus. These muscular tumors are often non-cancerous and do not show an increased risk of uterine cancer.

Most women do not display the general uterine fibroids symptoms, which makes it difficult to recognize whether a woman has fibroids or not. In cases where the tumor grows and becomes quite large, these uterine fibroids might cause heavy bleeding and painful periods.

Some other names for uterine fibroids are fibromas, uterine myomas, myomas, and leiomyomas.

Are fibroids common?

The growth of non-cancerous tissues on the uterine wall is a common phenomenon in women. Studies by the Office on Women’s Health, every eight in ten women develop uterine fibroids by 50 years.

However, the absence of any signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids leads to most women not finding out. In most cases, the uterine fibroids are discovered accidentally during a regular pelvic or gynecological examination.

Where do fibroids grow?

Uterine Fibroids largely vary in shape, size, and location. These often benign tumors might grow in clusters or a single node. The size of these fibroids might range between the size of a seedling and that of a watermelon.

Moreover, uterine fibroids can grow inside the uterine cavity, outside the uterine wall, or within the wall as well. Other than the notable variation in shape and size, uterine fibroids can also grow in different locations outside and within the uterus.

Doctors classify uterine fibroids into different classes based on their location. The location, size, and number of uterine fibroids affect the diagnosis and treatment plans.

What do fibroids look like?

Fibroids are mostly made up of smooth muscle cells and other bodily tissues. Hence, most uterine fibroids look like round lumps and nodes of smooth muscle tissues in and around the uterus. In some cases, these fibroids attach to the uterus with a stalk-like structure, giving it a look similar to a mushroom.

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Types of Uterine Fibroids

The different locations of growth of uterine fibroids affect the process of opted treatment. Hence, classification is necessary to make it easier to refer to the location as and when needed. The different types of uterine fibroids based on their location are:-

  • Intramural Fibroids - In most cases, uterine fibroids grow inside the uterine wall. These are called intramural fibroids, which can affect the size of the womb.
  • Subserosal Fibroids - The outside of the uterus is known as serosa, and these subserosal fibroids are found there. In cases where the fibroid is too large, the womb may appear to be larger on one side.
  • Pedunculated Fibroids - In case a subserosal fibroid develops a thin base to support the tumor, it is known as a pedunculated fibroid.
  • Submucosal Fibroids - When uterine fibroids grow in the uterine cavity or myometrium, they are called submucosal fibroids. These cases occur rarely, unlike the other types.

What are the symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?

The symptoms of uterine fibroids depend on their shape, size, and location of the same. In cases of submucosal fibroids, one experiences trouble getting pregnant and heavy bleeding during periods.

However, most women do not witness any signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids, which is why it might go unnoticeable. Moreover, if you’re undergoing menopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels, the hormones that stimulate fibroid growth, dip.

Thus, you might not notice any signs of uterine fibroids for smaller growths or when you’re in menopause.

Some common signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids that you can look out for include:-

  • Increased bleeding between/during your menstrual periods including blood clots
  • Frequent bloating or pain in the lower abdominal region
  • Urge to urinate frequently (when the fibroids pressurize the bladder)
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful sexual intercourse that leads to an inability to engage in it
  • Persistent vaginal discharge

Sometimes, these symptoms go away after your hormone levels have stabilized due to menopause or medications.

What are the first signs of Uterine Fibroids?

As discussed, uterine fibroids might not show any symptoms, making it difficult for women to understand whether they have it or not. However, some early symptoms of uterine fibroids include:-

If you face any of these symptoms, consult a gynecologist for a pelvic examination to determine whether you have uterine fibroids or not.

What causes Uterine Fibroids?

The exact reason for the development and growth of uterine fibroids is not clear. However, some causes of uterine fibroids that factor in include:-

  • Hormonal Levels - Estrogen and Progesterone are responsible for the thickening of the uterine walls during ovulation. Studies have thus linked these hormones to fibroid growth. Another piece of evidence is that during menopause, these hormone levels decrease and the symptoms of uterine fibroids disappear.
  • Genetics - Studies have found that women whose mother, grandmother, sister, or anyone down the family tree has experienced uterine fibroids are at a greater risk of the same.
  • Pregnancy - The estrogen and progesterone levels of the body are high during pregnancy, which might lead to the rapid growth of uterine fibroids.
  • Extracellular Matrix - ECM (Extracellular Matrix) causes the cells to stick together and fibroids have noticeably higher ECM content than normal cells. Thus, ECM growth factors can cause uterine fibroids.
  • Other Factors - Insulin-like growth factors and other tissue upkeeps can stimulate the growth of uterine fibroids.

Some common risk factors that can increase the chances of growth of uterine fibroids include:-

  • High BMI (Body Mass Index)
  • 30 years of age or older women
  • Pregnancy
  • Family History

What does uterine fibroid pain feel like?

  • In cases of small uterine fibroids, one might not experience any discomfort or the aforementioned signs of uterine fibroids. However, larger tissue growth can be painful and lead to the rise of different uterine fibroids symptoms. Some women might feel bloated or face pain in the lower abdomen.
  • Others might face heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal cramps, and lower back pain. Discomfort during sexual intercourse and urination are some other common symptoms of uterine fibroids.
  • If you experience any of these or notice anything out of the ordinary, contact your gynecologist for a detailed examination, diagnosis, and treatment.

How serious are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids might cause a lot of discomfort and pain, but it is not harmful. Fibroids might also cause further complications like heavy blood loss leading to anemia. It might also lead to fatigue and hamper an individual’s daily lifestyle.

In certain rare cases, fibroids grow and transform into cancerous tissue clumps. Statistics state that about 0.3% of uterine fibroids become malignant. There is no definite test to predict whether a fibroid will become cancerous or not.

However, women experiencing unusual fibroid growth or development of uterine fibroids during menopause are evaluated on a priority basis.

Risk factors for Uterine Fibroids

Other than the causes of uterine fibroids mentioned in the above sections, some factors that can boost your chances of developing uterine fibroids include:-

  • Age - Women who are above 30 years experience high hormone levels, which can lead to the growth of uterine fibroids.
  • Race - Statistics suggest that women who belong to the African-American race are affected by uterine fibroids.
  • Contraceptives - Hormonal contraceptive pills containing progesterone and estrogen can lead to higher chances of fibroid growth.
  • Unbalanced Diet - A balanced diet is essential to the proper functioning of the body. Consumption of red meat and dairy in higher amounts can lead to higher BMI and chances of developing fibroids.
  • Family History - Women with a family history of uterine fibroids are at a higher risk of the condition, making it necessary to undergo regular examinations.
  • Alcohol Consumption - Regulated use of alcohol considerably reduces the negative effects. However, consuming alcohol in large amounts can lead to changes in the hormonal levels increasing the chances of developing uterine fibroids.

If you have any of the above conditions, it is recommended to undergo frequent pelvic examinations under the care and supervision of your gynecologist to avoid further complications.

How can you prevent Uterine Fibroids?

Research on the causes of uterine fibroids is ongoing and incomplete, which is why it is not clear how one can prevent the condition. Since a very small amount of these cases develop into cancerous lumps, you should not worry about uterine fibroids.

However, leading a healthy life, implementing a balanced diet, and regulating alcohol consumption can help improve your well-being in general. You could also consult your doctor about the different hormonal contraceptive pills and their effect on the development of uterine fibroids.

Dos

Since the causes and preventive measures for uterine fibroids are not clear, making diet and lifestyle changes is the only option. Some simple do’s that can help relieve the symptoms and manage pain include:-

  • Include more fruits and vegetables
  • Manage your blood sugar and pressure levels
  • Acupuncture, yoga, stretching, and massage to relieve abdominal/lower back pain
  • Supplements for Vitamin D or protein levels

Ensure to consult your doctor and get their advice before making any drastic lifestyle changes or taking any unprescribed medications/supplements. Herbal teas and hot compresses can help relieve the symptoms and discomfort that arises during periods.

However, some supplements can boost the estrogen levels of the body, worsening the conditions of uterine fibroids. These side effects might lead to the development of further complications, which is why consulting your healthcare provider is crucial.

Don’ts

Other than following the above advice, some common things that you should avoid include:-

  • High consumption of processed meats and dairy have a higher salt content which can lead to the growth of uterine fibroids
  • Avoiding exercise and having a sedentary lifestyle affects your metabolism and leads to an increase in blood pressure, which can cause the fibroids to grow
  • Smoking reduces the oxygen content of the blood further affecting the pelvic region
  • High consumption of alcohol also alters the level of oxygen in the body

Following simple tips and avoiding certain habits can help alleviate the pain and reduce the risk of the growth of uterine fibroids and further complications.

Uterine Fibroids - Diagnosis and Tests

If you experience any of the above symptoms, your doctor will perform a routine pelvic examination. Since symptoms are not visible in most cases, uterine fibroids are discovered during regular health checkups.

Your gynecologist might feel the lump or abnormal growth in your uterus, following which they might order further examinations. These tests are necessary to diagnose uterine fibroids and check their size.

How are Uterine Fibroids diagnosed?

Uterine Fibroids are often discovered accidentally, but irregularities in the uterus found during a regular pelvic examination are often how your doctor might suspect you have it.

Other than that, a description of discomfort due to heavy bleeding and other side-effects like abdominal pain might alert them. Your gynecologist will advise you to get a pelvic examination, following which some other tests might be needed to diagnose uterine fibroids.

What tests are done for Uterine Fibroids?

Your doctor will recommend certain tests to confirm uterine fibroids and determine their size and location. These include tests like:-

  • Ultrasonography or Ultrasounds - A non-invasive test that uses sound waves for an exact image of the uterus to visualize uterine fibroids (if any). The device allows the doctor to check your uterus by the transabdominal or transvaginal route.
  • MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging - An ultrasound might not provide enough visuals or details, so your doctor might recommend getting an MRI. MRIs are also recommended if you have a large uterus or are going through menopause. The test reveals detailed images through radio waves and magnets.
  • CT Scan or Computed Tomography - X-ray images are used to develop a detailed image of the uterus from a range of angles.
  • Hysterosonography - Discovering submucosal fibroids is difficult, but this test can help diagnose these cases. The doctor will push saline into your uterine cavity to enlarge it for a better view.
  • Hysterosalpingography - The doctor uses a dye to view the uterus better and check the Fallopian Tubes.
  • Hysteroscopy - After expanding the uterine cavity with a saline mixture, the doctor inserts a small telescope with light into the cervix.
  • Laparoscopy - This test is minimally invasive but it is medically safe. The doctor will insert a laparoscope through a small incision on the abdomen to examine the uterus closely.

What are the possible complications of Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine Fibroids are not dangerous but can cause a lot of discomfort and lead to further complications. Other than disruption in the menstrual cycle and heavy bleeding, uterine fibroids can cause anemia, heavy blood loss, and fatigue that hampers one’s daily lifestyle. In certain cases, one might need a blood transfusion due to the increased blood loss during menstrual periods.

Most people want to know about the effects and issues of uterine fibroids and pregnancy. Well, uterine fibroids do not cause any pregnancy complications like miscarriage or infertility. However, people with submucosal fibroids might face difficulty in conceiving and experience pregnancy loss. If you have uterine fibroids and are considering getting pregnant, consult your gynecologist to monitor your condition and support you through the process.

Can fibroids turn into cancer?

Fibroids are not medically harmful, but in certain cases, they might become cancerous. Statistics suggest that less than 1 in 1000 women with uterine fibroids will develop cancerous fibroids (lelomyosarcoma).

Home Remedies for Uterine Fibroids?

As discussed, there is no scientific research on how to prevent uterine fibroids. The only way to diagnose is by expert gynecological consultation and through medical tests. However, you can adopt certain home remedies to alleviate the signs and symptoms. These include:-

  • Weight Loss - Research suggests that women with a higher BMI are at a higher risk of uterine fibroids. Fat cells boost the body’s estrogen levels, which is why you should maintain a normal BMI.
  • Nutrition - Other than including an exercise regimen, a balanced diet is to reduce the risk of developing uterine fibroids.
  • Blood Pressure and Sugar - Research shows that people with high blood pressure levels are at a higher risk of developing uterine fibroids. Some tips to control your blood pressure levels include:

    • Limiting the consumption of food with high salt or sugar content
    • Regular exercise plans
    • Recording blood pressure regularly for a comprehensive chart
  • Herbal Remedies - Traditional Ayurvedic medicines can help manage uterine fibroids and relieve pain. However, there is no concrete research proving their effectiveness.
  • Warm Compress or Baths - One might experience heavy bleeding and abdominal cramps, which can be relieved through warm compresses or baths.

What to eat in Uterine Fibroids?

In any condition, a nutritious diet and a healthy routine are crucial to managing the symptoms. Some common foods that you should include in your diet for uterine fibroids are:-

  • Unprocessed foods are rich in fiber and can help balance hormone levels, prevent weight gain, and curb appetite.
  • Vegetables and Fruit (both raw and cooked)
  • Whole Grains and Lentils
  • Herbs (both fresh and dried)
  • Dry Fruits like almonds

What not to eat in Uterine Fibroids?

Research suggests that high consumption of red meat and processed foods can lead to a higher risk of developing uterine fibroids. A sugar-rich diet and high amounts of alcohol consumption can worsen your condition. Steer clear of foods that raise your blood sugar and pressure levels. Some foods that you should avoid include:-

  • Foods like pasta, white rice, and flour with refined carbohydrates
  • Drinks with a high sugar content like soda
  • Baked goods like cakes and cookies
  • Foods with high salt content like potato chips and crackers

When should I talk to my doctor about Uterine Fibroids?

If you experience heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal pain, cramps, pelvic pressure, or pregnancy issues, you should consult your doctor about your risk of uterine fibroids. Some other cases when you should seek expert advice include:-

  • Pelvic pain and discomfort
  • Prolonged periods and heavy bleeding
  • Difficulty in urination
  • Loss of blood and reduction in red blood cell count

Which doctor to consult for Uterine Fibroids?

Gynecologists, obstetricians, and general physicians will be on your team to diagnose and treat uterine fibroids.

What questions should I ask my doctor about Uterine Fibroids?

If you are suspecting uterine fibroids or have been diagnosed with them, having questions is natural. The following section will list some questions that you can ask your OB-GYN for better clarification.

  • Should I get treatment for uterine fibroids?
  • What do the uterine fibroids treatment options include?
  • Are there any non-surgical treatment processes for uterine fibroids?
  • What are the possible complications and side effects of surgery for uterine fibroids?
  • Can my fibroids return in the future and when will I feel better?
  • How can I prevent uterine fibroids?
  • Will surgery or other treatment methods affect my chances of getting pregnant?
  • What do you think is the best approach and treatment in my case?

Uterine Fibroids Treatment

The treatment for uterine fibroids depends on their size, shape, number, and location. In cases where the person doesn’t face any symptoms or experience discomfort, treatment is not needed. The wait and watch approach is adopted in these cases and action is taken only if the condition worsens.

Your doctor will instruct you to undergo regular pelvic examinations and scans to monitor the situation. In case you are facing complications like heavy blood loss or anemia, your doctor will outline a detailed treatment plan.

Which doctor to consult for Uterine Fibroids?

If you suspect that you have uterine fibroids, you should consult your gynecologist who will instruct you on the further procedure.

Which are the best medicines for Uterine Fibroids?

Your doctor might prescribe certain medications to manage your symptoms and reduce the chances of further complications. Some popular medicines include:-

  • OTC medications - Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen can help manage symptoms like abdominal and lower back pain caused by fibroids.
  • Hormonal Birth Control Pills - Birth control pills can help regulate one’s hormonal levels to minimize the chances of fibroid growth.
  • Iron Supplements - If you experience heavy bleeding, taking iron supplements can help prevent anemia.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists - These medications provide temporary results and are used to shrink fibroids before removing them.

Do not take any of these above medications without consulting your healthcare provider and gynecologist to steer clear of negative impacts.

Uterine Fibroids Treatment without surgery

If you do not have large uterine fibroids or do not face any symptoms, you might not need treating uterine fibroids. Your doctor might put you on these medications and recommend other lifestyle changes to manage uterine fibroids without surgery.

What are the surgical treatments for Uterine Fibroids?

The different surgical procedures for uterine fibroids include:-

  • Myomectomy - A surgical procedure that helps remove uterine fibroids without causing any uterine damage. It is further classified into the following types:

    • Hysteroscopy - A scope is inserted without any incisions to remove the fibroids.
    • Laparoscopy - A scope is inserted through some small incisions on the abdomen.
    • Laparotomy - An abdominal incision is made and the fibroids are removed in one large cut.
  • Hysterectomy - The removal of the uterus to permanently cure uterine fibroids.
  • Uterine Fibroid Embolization - A catheter is used to restrict blood flow and shrink the fibroids.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation - A safe and effective process to treat uterine fibroids and their symptoms.

You can visit Pristyn Care to find out the best doctors for your health issue, and after analysing every aspect, take the best route of treatment.

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What is the procedure of Uterine Fibroids surgery?

The most common surgery for uterine fibroids is myomectomy through laparoscopy. A small incision is made on the abdomen to insert a laparoscope. It allows you to view the uterine fibroids and use the scope to cut them away.

How long does it take to recover from Uterine Fibroids?

Generally, Uterine Fibroids do not have any risks or lead to further complications. Hence, most women do not undergo surgery for uterine fibroids. In certain cases, menopause or the stabilization of the hormone levels causes the elimination of uterine fibroids.

What is the cost of Uterine Fibroids treatments in India?

The cost of uterine fibroid treatment options depends on several factors like the approach used and the infrastructure of the hospital. However, the average cost of uterine fibroids treatment options in India is INR 40,571. The minimum and maximum costs are INR 19,000 and INR 88,000, respectively.

Are the results of the Uterine Fibroids treatment permanent?

The only permanent treatment method for uterine fibroids is hysterectomy where the uterus is removed.

Who is eligible for the Uterine Fibroids treatment?

Uterine fibroid surgery is not the go-to treatment method recommended by doctors. The procedure is safe for women of all ages and cases. However, every case is unique and your doctor is the only one who can decide whether you are eligible for surgery for uterine fibroids.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

As discussed, every case is unique and your doctor will check the size, shape, and location of the uterine fibroids to determine whether you need treatment.

What are the post-treatment guidelines for Uterine Fibroids?

Just like any other surgery, the post-treatment guidelines for uterine fibroids surgery include:-

  • Take ample rest and avoid lifting
  • Stay hydrated and follow a balanced diet
  • Avoid blood-thinning drugs
  • Drink natural juices instead of soda
  • Replace high-processed foods with foods rich in fiber

What can happen if Uterine Fibroids are not treated?

Uterine Fibroids are generally harmless, but monitoring their growth and condition is important. This will allow your doctor to understand what treatment plan to follow and whether your fibroid can become malignant or not. If left untreated, the uterine fibroids might grow and lead to complications like anemia, severe menstrual cramps, and heavy bleeding.

What are the side effects of Uterine Fibroids treatments?

Just like any surgical treatment or medication, the treatment for uterine fibrosis might carry some rare risks. Consult your doctor if you experience any side effects or notice anything out of the ordinary.

Uterine Fibroids - Outlook / Prognosis

Regulating your hormones through medications or due to menopause can lead to shrinkage of uterine fibroids. It can also help remove any symptoms and discomfort. Generally, small fibroids do not show any symptoms and hence, do not need any treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What causes uterine fibroids to grow?

Research about the causes of uterine fibroids is still unclear, but some reasons for the growth of these include-
  • High levels of estrogen and progesterone
  • High levels of insulin and ECM growth factors
  • Family history of uterine fibroids

Do uterine fibroids cause infertility?

Uterine Fibroids may or may not affect pregnancy or cause infertility. In conditions like submucosal fibroids where the growth is in the uterine cavity, the person is at a higher risk of experiencing a miscarriage.

Are uterine fibroids cancerous?

Generally, uterine fibroids are not cancerous and do not show any symptoms. Less than 1 in 1000 cases of uterine fibroids develop into cancerous ones.

Can uterine fibroids cause back pain?

In certain cases, large uterine fibroids present on the back surface of the cavity press against the muscles and nerves, causing back pain. Moreover, compression of the muscles and veins in the pelvic region increases back pain.

Can uterine fibroids cause digestive problems?

When larger uterine fibroids push on the muscles, nerves, and the organs surrounding the pelvic area (bladder or bowel), one might experience increased urination or digestive problems.

Do uterine fibroids cause pain?

Uterine Fibroids cause several symptoms like menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, lower back issues, and disruption in the menstrual cycle.

What causes uterine fibroids to grow after menopause?

Generally, the stabilization of the hormone levels after menopause causes uterine fibroids to shrink. However, in certain cases, like cancerous uterine fibroids, they keep on growing. The reason for the same is not clear, but monitoring the condition regularly can help prevent further complications.
Women with uterine fibroids are at a higher risk of facing other fibroid types like ovarian and breast fibroids. Breast fibroids cause breast tenderness and pain before periods but do not contain true fibroid tumors.

Do uterine fibroids cause frequent urination?

The pressing of large uterine fibroids on the bowel, an organ close to the pelvic region, can cause frequent urination.

How to shrink uterine fibroids naturally?

Doctors prescribe medications and a holistic plan to shrink uterine fibroids. However, in most cases, it is not required. Your doctor will discuss and determine the best treatment plan for you and help you shrink the fibroids.

Do uterine fibroids bleed?

Abnormal vaginal bleeding and disruption in the menstrual cycle are some common effects of uterine fibroids. You might also notice bleeding between periods and heavy blood flow.

Do uterine fibroids cause weight gain?

Fibroids can lead to digestive issues and bloating which can cause weight gain. The prime reason for uterine fibroids is hormonal imbalance which further increases the chances of weight gain.

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Written ByDr. Sunita Singh MBBS,MS Obstetrics & GynaecologyGynaecology
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