Guest Author - Dr. Denise Howard
Fibroids or leiomyoma are the most common tumor of the female genital tract. If a woman has a growth in the pelvic region it is most likely a fibroid. Up to two-third of women suffer from this condition. A woman can have fibroids for many years before they are detected. They can sometimes be found on routine pelvic exam or a woman might present with problems that are due to fibroids.
Irregular periods or heavy periods are the most common problem that women with fibroids experience. Sometimes this can be so severe that a woman may develop anemia and need a blood transfusion. This is the usual presenting symptom of someone who has intramural fibroids. Women describe bleeding with the passage of large clots and a need to change their pad or tampon every 1hour or less. They typically describe a set number of heavy days and the menstruation might last from 7-10 days. Women who have a submucosal fibroid usually complain of intermenstrual bleeding or spotting. In some cases the complaint might be constant bleeding that just doesnít seem to stop.
A woman may also develop symptoms of increasing abdominal size, constipation, urinary frequency and pelvic pressure. A markedly enlarged uterus can cause these symptoms. A pedunculated fibroid can move and contribute to intermittent pressure symptoms such as difficulty urinating or defecating. Severe pain with menstrual bleeding is another hallmark of uterine fibroids. Depending on their location fibroids can cause problems with infertility, preterm labor and growth restriction in a developing pregnancy. As fibroids enlarge the blood supply that they receive from the uterine vessels may be dramatically decreased. The fibroid can attach to other pelvic organs such as bowel and develop a new blood supply. It is described as being parasitic when this occurs. If it is unable to obtain an additional blood supply then it can infarct and die causing severe pain and fever. This process is called degeneration.
Typically the symptoms develop gradually and may remain un-noticed for sometime. A routine gynecologic examination is recommended and this is one example of a problem that is commonly discovered. The gynecologistís suspicions might be raised based on the description of blood loss with menstruation or she might feel a mass on pelvic examination. Sometimes significant anemia is revealed on a routine blood count, which then leads to further testing.
All women are at risk of this condition. If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is important to discuss them with your doctor. There isnít any reason to be frightened since this condition rarely develops into cancer. But it is important to seek early treatment since it can affect fertility or cause significant inconvenience.
I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:
Live healthy, live well and live long!