Health Watch: Uterine Fibroids – Symptoms and Treatment options

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Fibroids, also known as uterine fibroids, are non-cancerous tumors that grow within the muscle tissue of the uterus. Uterine fibroids are the most common tumors of the female reproductive system. All women are potentially at risk of developing them.

African-American women are three times more likely to suffer from fibroids than white, Hispanic or Asian women. Fibroids can occur in women at a very young age, but the majority of women diagnosed with uterine fibroids are between 35 and 54 years of age. Fibroid tumors shrink during menopause. Between 50 and 80 percent of women will get fibroids in their lifetime.

SLUCare OB/GYN Dr. Brigid Holloran-Schwartz says no one exactly knows what causes fibroids, but they are thought to be caused by hormones in the body or genes that may run in the family.  The growths can cause pain, pressure on other organs, bleeding and anemia so severe some patients may need blood transfusions.

Uterine fibroids can rob you of the life you used to lead. The big question is, how do you know if you could have fibroids?  Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Heavy bleeding during menstrual periods
  • Passing clots during menstrual periods
  • Fluctuation in the duration and length of your period
  • Tightness or pressure in your pelvic area
  • Frequent urination day and night
  • Constipation
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain and discomfort during sex
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Fatigue

Dr. Holloran Schwartz says she can help a women avoid surgery that can affect fertility.  "A patient with fibroids may consider a birth-control pill."  A woman can have an IUD, a birth control device, inserted in the uterus as long as it is safe for the patient.  "We are injecting a dilute solution to decrease the blood supply temporarily to the fibroid to assist in our removal."

A woman can also choose to have the fibroids surgically removed.  Women who are done bearing children can have their uterus removed, but if you and your doctor monitor your symptoms, a woman can also choose to do nothing.

To learn more about uterine fibroids or to seek treatment, click here.

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