Uterine fibroids are among the most common health conditions that affect the female reproductive system, and yet we rarely talk about them. By the age of 50, 80 percent of women will experience uterine fibroids with most never even realizing it. Only about 10 to 30 percent of women with uterine fibroids experience symptoms that may point toward health-related risks associated with these fibroids. But because of the lack of information available, many of these women never recognize these symptoms until they become a serious issue.
To protect your health, it’s important to understand what uterine fibroids are, their symptoms, and how to treat them.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are abnormal growths in or around the uterus. They are noncancerous tumors that most commonly occur during the childbearing years. These growths can occur inside the uterus, on the external walls, or within the walls of your uterus itself.
Uterine fibroids have no direct impact on your health and may disappear without medical intervention. These fibroids almost never develop into uterine cancer and do not increase your risks of developing uterine cancer. However, in some cases, fibroids can lead to serious complications.
Who is at Risk for Uterine Fibroids?
Any woman of childbearing age is at risk for developing uterine fibroids. Your chances of experiencing these growths may be increased if you:
- Have a family history of uterine fibroids
- Are obese
- Experienced early onset puberty (around age 7)
- Have a vitamin D deficiency
- Regularly consume alcohol
- Eat a high red meat, low vegetable diet
- Are African-American
While no one knows for sure why these factors increase one’s risk of uterine fibroids, being aware of your risks is important to protect your reproductive health.
What are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?
Most women have no symptoms. However, if you experience any of the following, visit your gynecologist or physician and ask for a uterine fibroid screening. They may order an ultrasound to check for fibroids or lab tests to rule out other possible causes.
Symptoms to look for include:
- Heavy, painful periods
- Prolonged periods
- Spotting in between cycles
- Abdominal pain or swelling in the pelvic region
- Changes to your menstrual cycle
- Difficulty urinating or frequent urination
What are the Health Risks of Uterine Fibroids?
While most fibroids are completely harmless, in some cases, uterine fibroids can affect one’s fertility. Growths within the uterus may make it difficult or impossible for fertilized eggs to attach to the uterine wall, making it difficult to get pregnant. Women who frequently experience such uterine fibroids may be deemed infertile and may have to consider other routes for having children.
Fibroids may also occur in women who are already pregnant. While the vast majority of women who experience uterine fibroids during pregnancy have no complications, 10 to 30 percent do. Such complications may include placental abruption, fetal growth restriction, or preterm delivery. Fibroids that are submucosal, or in the inner wall of the uterus, can lead to pregnancy loss in rare cases. Uterine fibroids cannot be removed during pregnancy, as the procedure may be dangerous for the baby.
If you are pregnant and experiencing uterine fibroids, don’t panic! Most fibroids that occur during pregnancy are not harmful and may shrink or disappear after birth.
How Do You Treat Uterine Fibroids?
For some women, fibroids produce little to no symptoms. If this is the case for you, monitoring the growths to ensure they don’t grow or become disruptive is a good precaution. Typically, uterine fibroids grow very slowly or not at all, and they shrink or disappear when hormone production decreases with menopause.
In other cases, medication can help to regulate the hormones produced during the menstrual cycle, treating fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding. While not intended to eliminate fibroids themselves, these medications may shrink them.
If your uterine fibroids require more direct attention, uterine fibroid embolization in Miami may be a viable option. This surgical procedure is minimally invasive and takes less than an hour to complete. Embolization involves the use of a tiny catheter to inject embolic agents directly into the small blood vessels joining the fibroid to the uterus. By blocking these arteries, the growth is essentially starved of nutrients, causing it to shrink and soften.
Why Choose Palm Vascular?
As a form of outpatient vascular surgery in Miami, uterine fibroid embolization is our specialty! Palm Vascular’s team of experienced surgeons includes Broward County’s only female physician offering Uterine Fibroid Embolization services. Dr. Linda Hughes is available in both our Broward and Miami-Dade locations for your convenience.
For more information about our uterine fibroid treatment options including embolization, contact us now!