The abnormal or noncancerous growths that develop from the smooth muscular lining the uterus are referred to as fibroids or leiomyoma of the uterus. Nearly, 20 – 50 % of the women develop fibroids during their reproductive age. The reason behind the formation of fibroid tumours is unknown. However, it is believed that fibroids occur due to the increased levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones during the menstrual cycle. These hormonal levels gradually decrease during menopause which causes the fibroids to shrink.
Signs and symptoms
Most of the women do not experience any specific symptoms related to fibroids. However, some women may experience symptoms depending upon the location, the number of fibroids and the size of the fibroids.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding: Women may experience heavy bleeding during menstruation and may develop anaemia. Anemia may be manifested as symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and light-headedness. Spotting is also seen in the women having fibroids.
- Pelvic pain: Pelvic pain mainly occurs when fibroids starts degenerating. Pelvic pain is usually subsides within 2 to 4 weeks.
- Bladder and bowel problems: Fibroids may exert pressure on the bladder and thereby increase the urge and frequency to urinate. Fibroids may also press onto the rectum and cause difficulty in bowel elimination.
- Low back pain: A large fibroid may press against the muscles and nerves of the back and cause severe back pain.
- Other symptoms: Presence of fibroids during pregnancy may lead to premature labour. Women having fibroids may have pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse.
How to find out whether I have fibroids?
If you experience the symptoms of fibroids, you must consult a doctor. The doctor would suggest you to undergo a few diagnostic procedures. The following tests are done for diagnosing fibroids:
- Ultrasound scan: Ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the uterus. Transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasound are safe and reliable tests to detect uterine fibroids. Transabdominal ultrasound helps in detecting the fibroids on the outer wall of the uterus whereas transvaginal ultrasound helps in detecting the fibroids on the inner lining of the uterus.
- Hysteroscopy: Hysteroscope is an instrument which is inserted through the cervix. This helps in viewing the inside of the uterus and the fallopian tubes.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): It is a non-invasive imaging procedure, which gives a detailed picture of the number, size and location of the fibroids. This is an expensive test and not all women with fibroids need to undergo this test. Only those women who are undergoing surgery to remove the fibroids need to take this test.
- Hysterosalpingography: Hysterosalpingography is a procedure in which clear X-ray images of the uterus and fallopian tube are obtained. This test is usually done to rule out any obstruction of the fallopian tubes.
- Complete blood picture: Owing to heavy menstrual bleeding, you may develop anemia. Low levels of red blood cells and haemoglobin on your blood picture is indicative of anemia.
Treatment for fibroids
Natural remedies to treat fibroids
- Foods that heal fibroids and its symptoms: Green leafy vegetables are rich in vitamin-K, which is helpful in controlling the menstrual bleeding and reducing the growth of fibroids. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, tomato, and apple are believed to reduce the incidence of uterine fibroids in women. Beta-carotene rich foods like carrots, kale, and sweet potatoes promotes repair of tissues and thus help in healing fibroids. Iron-rich foods like legumes prevent anaemia due to excessive blood loss during menstrual periods. Flaxseeds help in maintain the estrogen levels, which helps to shrink fibroids.
- Supplements to reduce fibroids: Supplements like B-complex, flaxseed oil, milk thistle help in normalizing the estrogen levels in your body and thus aid in the reduction of fibroids.
- Foods to avoid: Foods such as refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine and conventional dairy products may mess up with the hormonal balance in the body. This may stimulate the growth of fibroids.
Most fibroids are asymptomatic. However, certain medications do help in shrinking fibroids, provide pain relief and also reduce the complications associated with fibroids such as heavy bleeding.
Myomectomy – Myomectomy is a laparoscopic procedure, where a small incision is made to remove the fibroids on the walls of the uterus.
Hysterectomy – In this surgery, the uterus is removed. Women who have crossed the childbearing stage can opt for this procedure. This is usually recommended if you have large fibroids or heavy menstrual bleeding.
Hysteroscopic morcellation of fibroids – In this procedure, a hysteroscope is inserted through the cervix and a morcellator is used along with small surgical instruments to remove the fibroid tissue.
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