If you’re worried about uterine fibroids, you’re in good company. Researchers believe up to 80% of all women develop these benign tumors by the time they turn 50. Although fibroids aren’t cancerous, they can cause frustrating symptoms, including:
- Heavy uterine bleeding with clots
- Lower back or pelvic pain
- Terrible menstrual cramping
- Pain during sex
- Long periods
- Pressure or fullness in the abdomen
- Swelling of the abdomen
However, it’s important to understand that not all uterine fibroids are the same.
Board-certified interventional radiologist Andrew Doe, MD, and his team at Alate Health in Houston, Texas, specialize in helping women overcome the problematic symptoms uterine fibroids cause.
Here’s a look at the different fibroids and what you need to understand about each:
What are the different uterine fibroids?
All fibroids are made from muscular tissues and fibers and start in your uterus. But doctors differentiate between fibroids based on their shape and placement in your body.
There are four main types of fibroids:
1. Pedunculated fibroids
Unlike other fibroid types, which are determined based on where they develop, you can have pedunculated fibroids anywhere. That’s because this fibroid is diagnosed based on shape.
Pedunculated fibroids grow on a long stalk and have a mushroom-like top. This type of fibroid can trigger significant pain because the stalk sometimes twists and cuts off blood supply to the growth.
2. Subserosal fibroids
Subserosal fibroids are the most common type of fibroid. You’re diagnosed with this type of growth when your fibroids grow directly outside your uterus.
Sometimes, subserosal fibroids push through the wall to continue growing outside your uterus. These fibroids may grow to be quite large. They can sometimes develop as pedunculated fibroids (pedunculated subserosal fibroids).
Women with subserosal fibroids rarely have reproductive problems since these fibroids grow outside the uterine cavity. But these fibroids can grow quite large and create frustrating problems, including:
- Bladder issues (e.g., frequent need to urinate)
- Digestive struggles (e.g., constipation)
You might also feel bloated, full, or have abdominal “heaviness” if you have this type of fibroid.
3. Intramural fibroids
Another common type of fibroid, intramural fibroids, grow inside the uterus wall. You can develop these fibroids in the front (anterior), back (posterior), or top wall (fundal) of the uterus.
Since intramural fibroids grow in the uterine wall, they can affect how your reproductive organs function. Some of the most common symptoms of intramural fibroids include:
- Heavy periods, long periods (>10 days)
- Painful periods, periods with clotting
- Back pain and abdominal discomfort
- Frequent/desperate urge to urinate
- Feeling like your uterus is full
- Fertility struggles
- Painful intercourse
The size and location affect the severity of these symptoms. For example, a large intramural fibroid may cause a protruding tummy, making it look like you’ve gained weight or are pregnant.
4. Submucosal fibroids
This type of fibroid is the least common type of uterine fibroid and the most problematic. You have a submucosal fibroid when the fibroid grows in the inner lining of your uterus (endometrium). They can sometimes expand into the uterine cavity.
Because they grow in the lining of your uterus, which sheds each month during your period, submucosal fibroids affect your cycle and fertility. They’re also the most likely to cause severe uterine bleeding, large blood clots, dizziness and fatigue, and anemia (low blood iron).
How are different fibroids treated?
Fibroids of all types can trigger symptoms. But the specific symptoms you experience and how much they impact your life can vary depending on which type of fibroids you have.
The fibroid you have may also affect which treatment is best for you. For example, only women with submucosal fibroids that expand into the uterine cavity may be eligible for a hysteroscopic myomectomy (surgery to remove fibroids).
At Alate Health, our team uses a highly personalized approach to treating uterine fibroids. Our goal is to give you relief from the troubling symptoms of fibroids—with no need for surgery.
Thanks to advances in medical technology, one treatment approach works well for most uterine fibroids: uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). UFE is a minimally invasive therapy that safely and effectively shrinks uterine fibroids.
As your fibroids shrink, you get relief from frustrating symptoms—without losing your uterus or other reproductive organs. UFE works by cutting off the blood supply uterine fibroids depend on to grow.
Dr. Doe creates a tiny incision and inserts a small catheter into the blood vessel that feeds your fibroid. Once in place, he releases microscopic embolic agents, which block blood flow to the fibroid. Over time, the tissues shrink and die, giving you relief from any associated symptoms.
Learn more about fibroids by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at Alate Health in Houston, Texas.