Uterine fibroids — the medical term is leiomyomata — are benign tumors that develop and grow within your uterus. Although uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors, they can impact your day-to-day life.
If you suspect you have a fibroid, you’re not alone. As many as 80% of women develop fibroids by the time they turn 50, according to the National Institutes of Health. Fibroids often don’t cause symptoms — you may not even be aware that you have them.
However, fibroids can cause pain and, if untreated, abnormal bleeding as well as fertility struggles. The health care professionals at Alate Health recommend you come in to see us as soon as you suspect you have uterine fibroids.
Symptoms of uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are well-known for causing heavy periods. There are four types of fibroids — intramural, subserosal, submucosal, and pedunculated — and depending on where the fibroid is located, you may note other symptoms such as:
- Pelvic pain
- Lower back pain
- Discomfort during intercourse
- Bloating and constipation
There are many ways that a fibroid can affect your well-being, which is why it’s important for us to follow up and treat bothersome fibroids.
Causes of uterine fibroids
Although experts can’t pinpoint one specific cause of uterine fibroids, many believe fibroid growth and development are influenced by several factors: weight, family history, pregnancy, and hormones. It’s important to explore the causes of fibroids because some risk factors are within your control — and some aren’t.
A study published in The American Journal of Human Genetics revealed that women with fibroids had three times as much of a protein, known as fatty acid synthase (FAS), located in fibroid samples. A genetic predisposition could lead to fibroids, and if your mother or sister has a fibroid, you have a higher risk of developing one, too.
Estrogen and progesterone both encourage uterine lining to grow each month (in order to prepare for a possible pregnancy). Hormones can also stimulate the growth of uterine fibroids, which is why there’s often a decrease in fibroid growth in post-menopausal women. Researchers have even linked high testosterone hormone levels with fibroid development.
Because pregnancy increases your estrogen and progesterone levels, fibroid growth may speed up during pregnancy.
High body mass index (BMI)
Having a high BMI can increase your risk for the presence of fibroids, but it doesn’t affect the size of each fibroid. The link between high BMI and uterine fibroids is due to the increased estrogen often associated with obesity.
Some fibroid causes (e.g. having a family history of fibroids) are out of your control, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with fibroids forever. In years past, hysterectomies and myomectomies were the main solutions, but invasive surgery is not your only option.
Regardless of what caused your fibroids, minimally invasive procedures — like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) — can help you feel like yourself again. This procedure shrinks fibroids safely and effectively and alleviates unpleasant symptoms.
At Alate Health, we’re happy to help women lead fibroid-free lives without invasive surgery, and if you currently dealing with fibroids, we’re here to guide you with your next steps. Schedule an appointment at our Houston office by calling 281-607-1384.