Definition

Fibroids are noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus (womb). They are common. Fibroids may be as small as a seed or as large as a melon. A person may have one or many. Most fibroids stay inside the uterus. Others may stick out and affect nearby organs.

Uterine Fibroid

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Causes

The cause of this problem is not known. Genetics may play a role.

Fibroid growth is stimulated by estrogen and progesterone hormones. This causes fibroids to grow during pregnancy and shrink after childbirth. It also causes them to become less of a problem after menopause.

Risk Factors

The risk of fibroids increases in women until the start of menopause. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Never having children
  • Early menstruation
  • Periods that happen more often than normal
  • Painful periods
  • Having other family members with this problem
  • Obesity

Symptoms

Some people may not have symptoms. Others may have mild to severe problems. It depends on the size and location of the growths. Problems may be:

  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Belly swelling
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Blood clots in menstrual flow
  • Periods that last longer than normal
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Cramping during periods
  • Pain during sex
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Constipation
  • Low back or leg pain

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. Most fibroids are found during routine pelvic exams. Blood tests will be done. Images may be taken with:

Treatment

Not all fibroids need to be treated. They will be watched for any changes.

Treatment that is needed will depend on whether there is a plan for future pregnancy. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. This may be done with medicines, such as:

  • Prescription or over the counter pain relievers
  • Hormonal therapy, such as oral contraceptives
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists to shrink fibroids
  • Tranexamic acid to control heavy bleeding

People who are not helped by these methods may need:

  • Uterine fibroid embolization to block blood flow to the fibroids to cause them to shrink
  • Focused ultrasound therapy to use focused sound waves to destroy the fibroids
  • Myomectomy to remove fibroids
  • Hysterectomy to remove the uterus, which means pregnancy is no longer possible

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc.
http://www.inciid.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://www.sogc.org

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

REFERENCES:

Fibroids. Healthy Women website. Available at: http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/fibroids. Accessed February 25, 2021.

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ufe. Accessed February 25, 2021.

Uterine leiomyoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/uterine-leiomyoma. Accessed February 25, 2021.

Vilos GA, Allaire C, et al. The management of uterine leiomyomas. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2015 Feb;37(2):157-181.

Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 2/25/2021