Are Fibroids Normal (And What Can I Do About Them)?

You may be living with fibroids and not even know it. Since fibroids can occur without symptoms, it’s difficult to determine how many women have this condition. These tumors can exist without symptoms in almost one in three women who develop them. 

While fibroids can occur without discomfort, some women experience painful symptoms. Fibroids can cause pain in your lower back, pelvic pressure, and painful sex. They may also cause painful periods, heavy bleeding between periods, difficulty voiding, or frequent urination. Large fibroids can cause visible distortion of your uterus or abdomen.

When fibroids cause pain and interfere with your daily life, you may benefit from treatment. Board-certified OB/GYN Lyndon Taylor, MD, provides expert diagnosis and treatment for women with fibroids. Dr. Taylor and the staff of Healthcare for Women in Oak Park and North Riverside, Illinois, use the latest diagnostic tools and treatments, which may be able to give you relief from fibroids. 

What are fibroids?

Fibroids, also called myomas or fibromyomas, appear as benign, or noncancerous, muscular tumors. They can grow as small as a seed or as large as a melon, and they can change in size over time. Fibroids grow inside the uterus, on the uterine wall, or its outer surface. These tumors can increase your risk of infertility or repeated miscarriages because they can alter the structure of your uterus. 

How are fibroids diagnosed?

Fibroids typically are diagnosed during a regular pelvic exam when a bump or lump is found. An ultrasound of your abdomen or a transvaginal ultrasound probe, which is inserted into the vagina, can confirm a diagnosis. An MRI can provide additional information regarding the size and quantity of fibroids.

Dr. Taylor may also use other diagnostic tests. A hysterosalpingography is a special X-ray test that can detect abnormal changes in your uterus. Hysterosonography uses sound waves to produce an ultrasound of the inside of your uterus. Another test Dr. Taylor may use is a hysteroscopy. With this test, a hysteroscope — which is a thin, lighted tube with a camera attached on the end — is inserted into your vagina to examine your uterus and take a biopsy.

Who gets fibroids?

Fibroids typically appear during a woman’s childbearing years when her estrogen levels are the highest. They occur more often to women who are in their 30s and 40s. Generally, the condition affects up to 30% of all women by age 35 and up to 80% by age 50. In African American women, fibroids can appear at a younger age and grow more quickly

Being overweight increases your risk of fibroids 2-3 times more than the average woman. You also have a higher risk of developing fibroids if you have a family history of the condition. 

What are noninvasive treatments for fibroids?

Treatment for fibroids isn’t usually needed if you don’t have symptoms. Fibroids can shrink on their own during menopause when your hormonal levels change. When symptoms cause excessive pain or other significant effects, Dr. Taylor will recommend a treatment based on the number and location of your fibroids, the severity of your symptoms, and your future childbearing plans. 

Medication may help relieve mild symptoms. Acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can relieve minor discomfort. Birth control pills can control heavy bleeding and painful periods. Drugs that contain gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists can stop your menstrual cycle and shrink fibroids. A progestin-releasing IUD can reduce heavy and painful bleeding. 

What other options exist for fibroids?

If your fibroids require more aggressive treatment, Dr. Taylor may recommend one of the following minimally invasive techniques:

MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery

This procedure uses an MRI to locate the fibroids and shrink them with ultrasound waves.

Uterine artery embolization

This procedure cuts off the blood supply of the fibroids at the uterine artery, which supplies blood to your uterus

Laparoscopic myomectomy

This procedure uses a laparoscope, a long, thin tool with a light and a camera on the end, to remove fibroids through several small cuts in your abdomen

Hysteroscopic myomectomy

This procedure uses a hysteroscope to remove fibroids through the vagina. 

If you have severe symptoms and want to retain your uterus, Dr. Taylor may perform an abdominal myomectomy. This surgery involves making an abdominal incision to remove the fibroids. You may need about 4-6 weeks to recover from this type of surgery.

If you have no plans to get pregnant, a laparoscopic hysterectomy — which is the removal of the uterus — can provide a definitive cure for fibroids. Without your uterus, fibroids can’t grow. Dr. Taylor will use a laparoscope to remove your uterus through 3-4 small cuts in the wall of your abdomen. 

To find out more about fibroids and what you can do if you have them, book an appointment online or over the phone with Healthcare for Women today.

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