Fibroids are benign (noncancerous) growths in the wall of the uterus. The uterus is the organ where a fetus grows during pregnancy.
Fibroids are common. They may be very small or they could grow to eight or more inches in diameter. Most fibroids remain inside the uterus. In rare cases, they may stick out and affect nearby organs. It is common for there to be more than one fibroid.
The cause of fibroids is unknown.
Fibroid growth is stimulated by female reproductive hormones. As a result:
Genetics may make some women more prone to fibroids. Substances that control blood vessel growth may also affect fibroid growth.
Certain factors affect your risk of fibroids, for example:
Obesity and high blood pressure may also be linked to fibroids.
Symptoms range from none at all to mild or severe. This depends on the size and location of the growths.
Symptoms may include:
Iron-deficiency anemia may develop if bleeding is heavy. This is low levels of red blood cells. It will affect the amount of oxygen your blood can carry.
Doctors find most fibroids during routine pelvic exams.
To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may want to get a detailed picture of the fibroid. This may be taken with one or more of the following tests:
Most women with fibroids have no symptoms and do not need treatment. Your doctor may recommend "watchful waiting". During this period your doctor will monitor any changes on a regular basis. Treatment may be done later if needed.
Your doctor may recommend:
Hormone medicines may be an option if you are not trying to become pregnant. These drugs can shrink fibroids and lessen pain. However, fibroids can return once you stop taking the drugs. These drugs may be used to make fibroids smaller just before surgery.
Surgery may be considered if:
Surgical procedures include:
Other options include:
If you are diagnosed with uterine fibroids, follow your doctor's instructions.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Fibroids. Healthy Women website. Available at: http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/fibroids. Updated September 8, 2008. Accessed December 7, 2012.
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). RadiologyInfo.org website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ufe. Updated April 24, 2012. Accessed August 23, 2012.
Uterine fibroids. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated May 22, 2012. Accessed August 23, 2012.
Uterine fibroids. Focused Ultrasound Foundation website. Available at: http://www.fusfoundation.org/Uterine-Fibroids/uterine-fibroids. Updated May 8, 2012. Accessed August 23, 2012.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Andrea Chisholm
Last Updated: 09/10/2012
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