Fibroids, or leiomyomas, are muscular tumours that grow on the uterine walls of women during child-bearing years. Most fibroids are benign (non-cancerous), may cause few or no symptoms, particularly in the early stages of growth and generally require treatment only if symptoms are severe. Some of the most common early fibroid symptoms include pain, enlargement and a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen and irregular menstrual bleeding. A variety of treatments are available to relieve fibroid symptoms. Your doctor can evaluate the size of your fibroids and the severity of your symptoms to determine an appropriate course of treatment.
Uterine fibroids may cause feelings of pressure, pain or cramping in the pelvic area, which usually occur with menstrual bleeding or during sexual intercourse. Some women may also experience pain in their lower back or legs. Your doctor may recommend over the counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve the pain.
Fibroids may cause a feeling of fullness or enlargement of the lower abdomen. Depending on their size and location, fibroids may also cause increased urinary frequency, difficulty emptying the bladder, gas or constipation. Fibroids that create pressure on the bladder may also increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
One of the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids is heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding. Bleeding may last for seven days or longer or may occur between periods. Heavy menstrual bleeding can result in iron-deficiency, or anaemia, which must be treated with iron supplements.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Fibroids can be detected by your doctor during a normal pelvic exam and may be confirmed by further tests including an ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or X-rays. Treatment for fibroids is usually only necessary if symptoms become severe, causing heavy bleeding or sharp pelvic pain. Current treatment options include over the counter medications and supplements, to relieve pain and anaemia, birth control medications, hormone therapy, or surgery.