Fibroids are benign (non cancerous) growths from the uterine muscle layers. They are very common and affect atleast 20% of women at some point in their lifetime. They are more prevalent in women in the age group of 30-50.Their sizes may vary from that of a pea to that of a melon.
Fibroids or myomas or fibromyomas can occur anywhere in the uterus. Depending on their position they are classified as
- Intramural Fibroids is the most common type and are found within the womb
- Subserous fibroids present on the outside wall of the uterus
- Submucous fibroids are found on the inner wall
- Pedunculated fibroids grow on the outside wall of the uterus and are attached to it with a stalk.
Fibroids do not show symptoms and even if they do, can be listed as
- Lower abdomen discomfort
- Frequent urination
- Painful and heavy periods
- Pain in the legs
- Pain during intercourse
- Swelling of the lower abdomen
- Labor problems
- Problems during Pregnancy
- Miscarriage or infertility
The exact cause for fibroids is not known though it is most prevalent during a woman’s reproductive age. At this time the estrogen and progesterone levels are predominantly high. Estrogen causes the fibroids to swell up. During menopause when the estrogen levels drop the fibroids may shrink.
Heredity could also be a factor for fibroids. Those women whose mother or sisters had fibroids are at a higher risk of inheriting it.
Fibroids can be diagnosed during a internal examination (vaginal) by the physician. Some are diagnosed using ultrasound scan and other tests.
If the fibroid symptoms are not really bad then treatment is not recommended. The fibroids usually shrink or disappear. In case symptoms get worse you can contact your doctor who might suggest one of the following treatments
Medication: Medication can be provided to reduce the flow during periods. Hormone therapy can be done so that the level of estrogen in the body falls. This eases heavy periods and symptoms of fibroids.
Surgery: Various surgical methods are available to treat fibroids
Hysterectomy: This is a good option for women who have completed child bearing. In this process the uterus is removed.
Myomectomy: This is an option for women who wish to have children later. In this surgical procedure the fibroids are removed and the womb is left as it is. Recurrence of fibroids are common after this procedure. This can be done laparoscopically(key hole surgery) or hysteroscopically (through vagina).
Endometrial ablation: For fibroids close to the inner lining of the womb, this procedure is used to remove the lining.
Other techniques involve MRI guided focused ultrasound, uterine artery embolisation, MRI guided laser ablation etc. Please check with your gynecologist for the right treatment method suitable for you.