The National Institutes of Health estimate that about 80% of women will develop uterine fibroids by age 50. Not every woman who has fibroids knows it, though, since they are often asymptomatic or cause symptoms that are mistaken for other issues.
When they do cause symptoms, however, fibroids can certainly make life miserable. Dr. Daniel Kushner is a top-rated OB/GYN specialist who is well-known for his expertise in treating uterine fibroids and the symptoms they cause.
What are fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are rubbery growths that develop in the muscular uterine wall. They can be quite small and occur singularly or grow quite large and develop in multiple locations. Some fibroids remain within the wall of the uterus while others bulge inward toward the womb or project outward from the uterine wall. Fibroids can also become pedunculated or hang from a stalk inside or outside of the uterus.
Fibroids contain muscle and fibrous connective tissue and almost never develop into cancer. They also do not increase your risk of developing uterine cancer. They can, however, become so large or numerous that they distort the size and shape of the uterus, sometimes enlarging it to the point of touching your rib cage.
What are the symptoms of fibroids?
When uterine fibroids become symptomatic, they can cause:
- Heavy bleeding during your period that may lead to anemia
- Menstrual periods that last longer than a week
- Significant pain and cramping during your period
Fibroids can also cause symptoms that you may not relate to menstrual periods, including:
- Persistent pelvic pressure or pain
- Frequent urination and difficulty emptying your bladder
- Ongoing back and leg pain
Rarely, a fibroid causes acute or sudden pain if it outgrows its blood supply and begins to die. Uterine fibroids can also interfere with your ability to become pregnant or maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Fibroids also increase your risk of complications during pregnancy and may lead to:
- Placental abruption, when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery
- Fetal growth restrictions
- Preterm delivery
What is the treatment for uterine fibroids?
If you aren’t experiencing significant symptoms due to fibroids, you may not require any treatment other than watchful waiting. Uterine fibroids tend to shrink on their own and become asymptomatic with menopause.
Otherwise, fibroid treatment typically depends on the size, location, and number of fibroids you have as well as the symptoms you’re experiencing. Treatment also varies if you desire to become pregnant in the future.
Treatment options Dr. Kushner might consider include:
- Hormone medication to control excessive bleeding and shrink the fibroids
- Birth control pills to control bleeding with no change in the size of the fibroid
- Progestin-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) to reduce heavy bleeding
If you have fibroids but want to become pregnant, Dr. Kushner may recommend surgery (myomectomy) to remove the fibroids, while leaving the uterus and other reproductive organs intact. This procedure is often performed laparoscopically, which requires only a few small incisions and typically leads to faster healing than traditional open surgery.
If you aren’t interested in becoming pregnant, Dr. Kushner might recommend uterine artery embolization. This nonsurgical treatment, also known as uterine fibroid embolization, disrupts blood supply to the fibroid, which causes it to shrink. Often considered the last resort, a hysterectomy is also a definitive treatment option for uterine fibroids.
You can rely on Dr. Kushner’s expertise as an OB/GYN specialist to provide effective treatment options for uterine fibroids and all your women’s health care needs. Call the office today for an appointment, or schedule a visit online.