Uterine fibroids develop on the wall of a woman’s uterus. They are noncancerous growths and typically form during a woman’s childbearing years. While the growths are not connected to cancer, they can be uncomfortable and create fertility problems.
Some symptoms of fibroids include heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, and problems with fertility. Others experience no symptoms at all. Fibroids can vary in size, some are very small in size while others grow to be larger than a grapefruit. Growth can happen over short or long periods of time.
Causes of Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are fairly common. Estimates are that by the time women reach the age of 50, 20 percent to 80 percent of them will have had fibroids. While women are more susceptible as they get older (they are most common for women in their 30s and 40s) but they can happen at any age.
The risk of developing fibroids increases if you have a family history of uterine fibroids, are overweight, and have a diet that is heavy with red meat. That said, uterine fibroid growth is not completely understood. It is assumed a combination of diet, genetics and lifestyle contribute to uterine fibroid growth but it is likely hormones play a role in fibroid growth, too.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
While a woman can have fibroids and no symptoms, there are symptoms that are frequently reported. These include menstrual cycles that are longer or heavier than normal, cramping, bleeding between periods, pain during sexual intercourse, a dull and painful feeling in the belly or lower back, swelling, bathroom issues, and infertility or miscarriage.
Issues and symptoms are not connected to the size or age of the fibroids. For example, small fibroids that have developed quickly can create issues while large, older fibroids may not result in symptoms. Each situation is unique.
Unless you are experiencing symptoms, you might not know you have uterine fibroids. If you want to find out if you do have fibroids, express your concerns to your doctor or nurse. Through an exam, they might be able to feel the fibroid or use a type of imaging technology such as an ultrasound or x-ray.
From there, if you have developed fibroids, you and your healthcare provider will have to make a few decisions about possible treatments. The best path for you will depend on a variety of things. If you have any other health concerns, those need to be taken into account. Also, treatment solutions shift depending on your age, if you are looking to become pregnant, what symptoms you are experiencing, and the location and size of your fibroids.
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