Fibroids are usually benign (non-cancerous) growths that appear within the muscle and connective tissue of the uterus. You may have one fibroid or several. Fibroids can vary considerably in size. They can be as small as a pea, or grow fairly large.
Most of the time fibroids grow slowly but others develop more quickly. They typically grow larger over time. Fibroids develop from single smooth muscle cell that continues to grow under the influence of estrogen.
These “tumors” are also called myomas, fibromyomas, or leiomyomas. Fibroids are almost never cancerous – less than 1 percent of cases.
Fibroids are not a rare entity and cause problems in approximately 25 percent of women in the United States. Depending on their location in the uterus, the number and size will determine the extent of the discomfort which could range from mild pelvic pressure to severe pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during relations, miscarriages and infertility problems.
In these cases treatment is indicted. Prior to deciding on treatment a full and complete evaluation should be conducted. Based on these findings and your specific condition, treatment can be tailored to you.
Why fibroids develop is still debatable. Some research suggests there is a predisposition to getting fibroids which may be hereditary. There also appears to be a link between fibroid growth and hormonal factors.
Fibroids tend to grow during reproductive years and also can expand rapidly during pregnancy when estrogen levels are high. Fibroids generally shrink after menopause as estrogen levels decline. Most likely, fibroids are the result of a combination of these and other factors yet to be identified.
Fibroids usually do not cause any symptoms and you will not even know they are there. But depending on their size, number and location, fibroids can be responsible for changes in the menstrual cycle, pelvic / back pain, pain with relations, frequent urination, constipation, miscarriage, problems conceiving or anemia due to excessive menstrual bleeding.
Fibroids and infertility
Fibroids can make it difficult to conceive naturally if they distort the uterine cavity or block the fallopian tubes. Some treatments for fibroids can affect fertility as well. However, there are treatment options for fibroids that can help protect your ability to have children, and advances in infertility treatment also have greatly improved the chance you will get pregnant even if your fibroids are making it difficult.
Types of fibroids
- Submucosal fibroid – grows from just underneath the uterine lining into the uterine cavity. These can cause bleeding, pain or infertility.
- Subserosal fibroid – grows from the wall of the uterus outward and can create pressure on the bladder, bowel and intestine. These fibroids can cause bloating, abdominal pressure, cramping and pelvic pain.
- Intramural fibroid – this is the most common type of fibroid. It grows within the muscle of the uterus and can cause pressure-like symptoms and, occasionally, heavy menstrual bleeding.
Sometimes a fibroid grows from a stalk-like structure called a pedicle that sticks out from the uterus or into the uterine cavity.