Uterine fibroids are growths in the uterus. Fibroids aren’t cancer. Doctors don’t know what causes fibroids. Fibroids are very common in women during their childbearing years.
Fibroids can grow on the inside of the uterus, in the muscle wall of the uterus, or near the outside wall of the uterus. In some women, fibroids cause painful cramps and heavy periods. In these cases, an intrauterine device (IUD) can help decrease symptoms. It can also help to take anti-inflammatory medicines or birth control pills. Sometimes surgery is needed to treat fibroids. But if you are near menopause, you may want to wait and see if your symptoms get better.
Most fibroids shrink and go away after menopause. This occurs when your periods stop completely.
What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroid symptoms can develop slowly over several years or quickly over several months. Fibroids often cause mild symptoms or none at all. But sometimes the symptoms become a problem. The types of symptoms you have can depend on where the fibroid is found in the uterus.
Uterine fibroid symptoms and problems include:
- Abnormal menstrual bleeding.
- Heavier, prolonged periods that can cause anemia.
- Painful periods.
- Spotting before or after periods.
- Bleeding between periods.
- Pelvic pain and pressure.
- Pain in the belly, pelvis, or low back.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Bloating and feelings of pressure in the belly.
- Urinary problems.
- Frequent urination.
- Kidney blockage following ureter blockage (rare).
- Other symptoms.
These may include:
- Difficult or painful bowel movements.
- Difficulty getting pregnant.
- Problems with pregnancy, such as placental abruption and preterm labor.
How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?
To find out if you have fibroids, your doctor will ask about your symptoms. Your doctor will do a pelvic exam to check the size of your uterus. Your doctor may do an ultrasound or other tests to see inside your uterus. You may have blood tests to look for other problems.
How are uterine fibroids treated?
If your fibroids aren't bothering you, you don't need to do anything about them. Your doctor will check them during your regular visits to see if they have gotten bigger.
If your main symptoms are pain and heavy bleeding, try an over-the-counter pain medicine like ibuprofen. And ask your doctor about birth control pills. They can help you feel better and make your periods lighter. If you have anemia, take iron pills and eat foods that are high in iron.
If you're near menopause, you might try medicines to treat your symptoms. Heavy periods will stop after menopause.
A treatment called uterine fibroid embolization can shrink fibroids. It's not a surgery, so most women feel better soon. But fibroids may grow back.
Surgery to remove the fibroids or the entire uterus may be done.
Most of the time fibroids grow slowly, so you can take time to think about your choices.