What are uterine fibroids, risk factors, and symptoms? [Dr. Shams]

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are small benign tumors that grow within the uterus. They can originate as a single growth or in clusters. Unlike cancerous tumors, they rarely spread to other organs in the body. Fibroids can occur in different parts of the uterus and are described in four ways:

  • A submucosal fibroid is underneath the inner lining of the uterus.
  • A pedunculated submucosal fibroid is in the cavity of the uterus.
  • The most common fibroid is an intramural fibroid, which is in the muscle layer of the uterus.
  • Lastly is a subserosal fibroid. This is in the outer layer of the uterus.

Fibroids come in many different sizes. Even in the same patient, fibroids may be different sizes and found in different locations.

What are the risk factors for uterine fibroids?

Risk factors for uterine fibroids include genetic and other factors. Many patients have a strong family history of fibroids and certain groups have a very high incidence of fibroids. For example, black women may have up to an 80% chance of having fibroids at some point in their lives. If their mother or grandmother had fibroids, they have an almost 99% chance of developing fibroids. Hormonal changes, including hormonal imbalances, and lifestyle choices, including poor diet, eating a lot of red meat, drinking alcohol, caffeine, or not drinking enough water, may also contribute to fibroid development.

What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?

For patients in the 40 to 50-year-old age group, heavy menstrual bleeding is very common. Some patients with fibroids also develop spotting in between periods or develop such severe bleeding that it affects their lifestyle.

Symptoms experienced by some patients include intense pelvic cramping, pelvic pressure, or pain particularly if the fibroids are pushing on other organs. For example, the uterus is very close to the bladder which can cause an increase in the frequency of urination, the uterus can push on the spine or the upper abdomen causing severe back pain associated with menstruation, or a patient may get low energy and feel very tired due to changes in hormones.

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