Uterine fibroids are benign lumps that grow on the uterus. Symptoms may include heavy periods, cramping, painful sex, and an urge to urinate. Treatment options include hysterectomy, embolization, and hormone therapy.
Uterine Fibroids - Cause
The exact cause of uterine fibroids is not known. Fibroids begin when cells overgrow in the muscular wall of the uterus.
After a fibroid develops, the hormones estrogen and progesterone appear to influence its growth. A woman's body produces the highest levels of these hormones during her childbearing years. After menopause, when hormone levels decline, fibroids usually shrink or disappear.
Uterine Fibroids - Symptoms
Uterine fibroid symptoms can develop slowly over several years or rapidly over several months. Most women with uterine fibroids have mild symptoms or none at all and never need treatment.
For some women, uterine fibroid symptoms become a problem. Pain and heavy menstrual bleeding are the most common symptoms. In some cases, difficulty becoming pregnant is the first sign of fibroids. The type of symptoms women have can depend on where the fibroid is located in the uterus.
Uterine fibroid symptoms and problems include:
. Abnormal menstrual bleeding, such as:
> Heavier, prolonged periods that can cause anemia.
> Painful periods.
> Spotting before or after periods.
> Bleeding between periods.
. Pelvic pain and pressure, such as:
> Pain in the abdomen, pelvis, or low back.
> Pain during sexual intercourse.
> Bloating and feelings of abdominal pressure.
. Urinary problems, such as:
> Frequent urination.
> Leakage of urine (urinary incontinence).
> Kidney blockage following ureter blockage (rare).
. Other symptoms, such as:
> Difficulty or pain with bowel movements.
> Infertility. Sometimes, fibroids make it difficult to become pregnant.
> Problems with pregnancy, such as placental abruption and premature labor.