What Uterine Fibroids Are:
The cause of uterine fibroids is largely unknown, though they occur more frequently in women in their 30s and 40s, especially those with a family history of fibroids. They are also more common in black women. A diet high in red meat and obesity may increase a woman's risk of developing uterine fibroids.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids:
- pelvic pain
- dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual period)
- pain during sex
- abnormally heavy menstrual flow
- urinary urgency
- low back pain
- infertility (usually only in severe cases)
Diagnosing Uterine Fibroids:
Sometimes, a more invasive procedure is required to accurately diagnose uterine fibroids. In a hysteroscopy, a scope with a small camera is inserted into the uterus. In a laparoscopy, it is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen. Each can be used to diagnose uterine fibroids, as well as to remove them.
Treating Uterine Fibroids:
- Pain medications such as over-the-counter or prescription NSAIDs can control mild to moderate pelvic pain caused by uterine fibroids.
- Gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists (GnRHas) can sometimes shrink fibroids, though fibroids may return again.
- Hormone treatments such as birth control pills or progesterone injections can decrease fibroid growth.
- Surgery, such as a myomectomy, hysterectomy, endometrial ablation or uterine fibroid embolization may be performed if other approaches are not effective.
Prognosis for Uterine Fibroids:
Uterine fibroids decrease in size and symptoms are usually diminished once menopause begins.
Lippman, SA et al. Uterine Fibroids and Gynecologic Pain Symptoms in a Population-Based Study. Fertility and Sterility. 2003 Dec;80(6):1488-94
The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Uterine Fibroids. Accessed 7/30/09. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec18/ch248/ch248a.html
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Uterine Fibroids. 12/9/2005. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/uterine_fibroids_2005.pdf
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Uterine Fibroids: Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed 7/30/09. http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/uterine-fibroids.cfm