Uterine fibroids are growths at the uterus that are benign in nature. It occurs during the reproductive age and possesses a very low risk of cancer, about 1 in 1000 cases. They are also known as leiomyomas, myoma, and fibromyoma. The size of fibroids vary a great deal, they can be as small as to be invisible to the naked eye or can be large enough to cause discomfort. One can have single or multiple fibroids.
The causes of uterine fibroids are still not completely known but certain genetic and hormonal factors increase their risk. Since these fibroids are oestrogen dependent, they’re not usually seen before puberty and after menopause. However, they may multiply or grow rapidly during pregnancy owing to the increased oestrogen production. When the oestrogen production reduces after menopause, fibroids begin to shrink in size.
Uterine fibroids happen to 25 to 30% of the women but 50% of these cases show no symptoms. Since a lot of fibroid cases are asymptomatic, women often miss them. The signs and symptoms of fibroids depend on the location & its size.
Types of fibroids
Fibroids are classified based on the location that they appear in-
- Intramural fibroids- Grow within the muscular wall of the uterus
- Submucosal fibroids- Grow into the uterine cavity
- Subserosal fibroids- Are projected outwards of the uterus.
These, located in the cervix can complicate pregnancy and labour as well.
Some of the symptoms of uterine fibroids are-
- Menstrual symptoms:
- Heavy/prolonged bleeding
- Painful abdominal menstrual cramps
- Symptoms due to the large size of fibroids pressing against bladder/rectum:
- Urine Retention
- Lower back pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Infertility & Reproductive symptoms:
- Difficulty getting pregnant (especially in submucosal fibroids)
- Repeated abortions
Treatment for uterine fibroids
For cases that show no symptoms, treatment is not usually required. But for cases that are symptomatic, treatment depends on the symptoms and the location of the fibroids. Surgical options are the preferred choice of treatment in the case of women facing infertility. Medicines are usually prescribed for managing pain, controlling bleeding and reducing the size of the fibroids.
An overview of the various surgical options is mentioned below-
- Uterine artery embolization- This is a minimally invasive procedure where small particles known as embolic agents are injected which cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids. This causes them to shrink and die.
- Operative hysteroscopy – This is a minimally invasive process which requires no incision. In this method, the uterine cavity is first visualised by an instrument called Hysteroscope. Instruments for removing fibroids are inserted through the vagina and cervix and into the uterus. This method is used for removing submucous and intramural fibroids.
- Laparoscopic methods- In this method, the laparoscope is introduced through a small incision in the abdomen in order to access the fibroids. Fibroids are broken down and sucked out through the laparoscope. Intramural Fibroids and subserous fibroids can be removed with this method.
Fibroids can be easily managed with support from an expert healthcare provider. If you’re suffering from any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should definitely consult with a gynaecologist immediately who will then help you chalk out a care plan based on your needs and medical history. The mfine app gives you access to the city’s best gynaecologists for an online consultation, the minute you need to.