What are Uterine Fibroids
The term ‘uterine fibroids’ describes a non-cancerous growth of muscle and connective tissue that forms rubbery knots which are distinct from the surrounding tissue in the uterus (womb). This fibrous mass, also known as leiomyoma or myoma, mostly originates from smooth muscle cells lining the wall of the uterus. Researchers don’t exactly know what causes fibroids, but they think that each myoma tumor occurs as a result of a formation of abnormal muscle cells in the uterus. These cells tend to divide rapidly and develop into a lump with help of the female sex hormone estrogen, which tends to speed up the growth of many things in the body.
The uterine fibroids vary greatly in size, from being microscopic to sometimes as large as 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) in diameter. They may remain small for a long time and a woman may not be even aware of having them, then a sudden growth spurt can cause a variety of symptoms.
Most often fibroids grow within the thickest middle layer of the uterine smooth muscles Intramural). Sometimes they can form on the outside of the uterus just under the outer covering (serosa) and are called subserosal fibroids. Fibroids can also occur within the thin innermost layer of the uterus called the endometrium, these are called submucosal fibroids.
Most women diagnosed with a fibroid growth are concerned about developing cancer. Luckily, in most cases fibroids do not lead to uterine cancer, however without pathological examination it is difficult to evaluate whether the uterine mass is benign or cancerous. Fibroids tend to shrink naturally after the menopause.
Symptoms Associated with Fibroids
Many women may not be aware of having fibroids as they can go undetected for a long time without causing any symptoms. Concerns about fibroids usually start when special symptoms appear which may surface at different times and include:
During or between menstruation:
- Painful and heavy menstruation sometimes with blood clots
- Periods that last longer than normal
- Bleeding that occurs between periods
- Feeling of pressure and abdominal discomfort
- Fullness in the lower abdomen
- Pelvic pain
- Bloating and weight gain
- Frequent and sometimes difficult urination
- Larger fibroids may cause constipation
- Painful intercourse