Uterine fibroids are growths that originate from the outer layer of muscle of the uterus. Normal cells that make up the outer layers of muscle begin to grow abnormally, multiply, and accumulate to form tumors. These tumors are almost always benign (noncancerous). Uterine fibroids are very common, and a large percentage of women develop fibroids by the time they reach the age of 50. As these fibroids often cause no apparent symptoms, many women remain unaware that they have them.
While the precise cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, studies suggest that their growth depends on estrogen, which accounts for the fact that they develop after puberty and after age 30. They also tend to shrink or disappear when estrogen levels decrease after menopause. Aside from age, other risk factors include family history, ethnic origin (African American women are more like to develop fibroids), obesity, and eating habits.
Uterine fibroids may appear alone or as multiple growths and may vary in size. Although they most often occur on the walls of the uterus, they can grow and spread into other areas of the womb. Fibroids are also classified by where they grow in the uterus:
While uterine fibroids commonly cause no symptoms, women who do experience signs of these growths may experience the following:
Depending on the size and location of the fibroid, symptoms can significantly impact one's daily life. Studies also suggest that uterine fibroids may affect fertility and pregnancy. Women who experience these symptoms should consult a medical professional who can conduct various tests to determine the precise cause. A doctor can detect fibroids during pelvic exams, and imaging tests can be used to confirm their presence and arrive at a diagnosis.
For mild cases or for women who experience no apparent symptoms, a doctor may simply recommend regular checkups to ensure that no problems arise. If treatment is required, several options are available:
Depending on the circumstances, your doctor may recommend various surgical procedures.
If you are one of the millions of women who has been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, understanding all available treatment options is crucial to making an informed decision. Hysterectomy.com focuses on educating women and the general public about conditions such as uterine fibroids, available treatments, and ways in which a hysterectomy can potentially be avoided. If you wish to learn more about your specific condition and hysterectomies, please complete a contact form.