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What are Fibroids?
Fibroids are growths that develop in the womb and uterus; they are non-cancerous and can cause some uncomfortable symptoms. The growths can develop in different locations and vary in size. They are made up of fibrous tissue. Another name for fibroids is uterine myomas or sometimes leiomyomas.
In many cases, fibroids grow without the woman being aware that she has a problem as no symptoms appear. Only about one in every three women with fibroids will experience symptoms. Women who have symptoms may find that they have menstruation problems such as heavy bleeding or pelvic pain and cramping. They may also experience abdominal pain when not menstruating as well as lower back pain and a frequent need to urinate. Another common symptom of fibroids is constipation, as well as pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse.
In some cases, fibroids can also cause infertility or complications with pregnancy.
When to See Your Doctor
Many women with fibroids never see their doctor as they have little or no symptoms. Sometimes fibroids are diagnosed by chance when a woman has a routine gynecological examination. They may also be diagnosed if a woman is having problems conceiving and has been sent for tests or a scan.
However, it is important to see your doctor if you have symptoms of fibroids. This will allow your medical practitioner to investigate whether you have a fibroid or to look for other possible causes. If your doctor suspects that you might have fibroids, they’ll likely refer you to a specialist for an ultrasound scan. A scan will be used to make a diagnosis, and then treatment can be offered.
Why Do Fibroid Growths Develop?
It’s not known exactly what causes fibroids to grow in some women’s wombs. Doctors think that it could be linked to a certain hormone, including estrogen. Fibroids are more common in women between the age of 16 to 50. This is the woman’s reproductive years and is the time when estrogen levels are high.
As estrogen levels lower, as a woman ages and goes through the menopause, fibroids are likely to shrink. In some cases, they will disappear altogether.
Who is More at Risk of Developing Fibroids?
Fibroids are very common; around one in every three women will develop them at some point in their life. They usually start to grow when the woman is approximately thirty to fifty years old. Women who have an African-Caribbean origin are more likely to have fibroids, as are women who are overweight. Being obese increases the levels of estrogen in a women’s body, and this encourages fibroids to grow.
Women who have been pregnant are less likely to have fibroids. The risk of them developing will decrease further the more babies a woman has.
Treatment for Fibroids
Usually, fibroids can be left untreated, and they will disappear over time. They are likely to shrink and then go away permanently after the menopause. Women who are experiencing symptoms or are infertile may be offered medication to help shrink the growths or, in severe cases, an operation to remove them.