Leiomyoma (Fibroids) of the Uterus Causes, Symptoms, Complications and Treatment Options Available
Uterine fibroids, also called leiomyoma, myomectomy or myoma are noncancerous growth within and around a woman’s uterus. This growth happens during a woman’s childbearing years and are made of muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue.
Leiomyoma of uterus is a fairly common health complication and it is estimated that over 70-80% of women will have them in their lifetime.
Important Facts about Leiomyoma (Fibroids) You Should Know
1) Fibroids are tumours, but unlike most tumours, they are noncancerous and most often never develop into cancer.
2) As earlier said, about 80% of women will develop leiomyoma by the time they are 50, although some women get them in their early years.
3) Myoma or fibroids is the leading cause of hysterectomy – the surgical removal of the uterus and over 400,000 hysterectomies get performed in the United States yearly.
4) Although fibroids could cause infertility they don’t always do and women with one or more fibroids can go ahead to have healthy pregnancies.
5) The most common symptom of fibroids is a heavy menstrual flow and this is usually the reason most women discover they have the ailment.
6) Fibroids or leiomyoma range in sizes and could be as small as a seedling or so large, they distort the womb and take up all the space.
Fibroids Symptoms: How to Tell If You Have Fibroids
Most cases of fibroids do not present with any symptoms and most women with leiomyoma do not know they have it. However, in cases where they do, fibroids symptoms you can expect to see or experience include:
- Heavy period bleeding
- Periods that last for a week or longer
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic region
- The need to urinate frequently
- Bloated feeling
- Pain during intercourse
- Pressure in the lower abdomen
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- Sharp pain in the lower abdomen that comes on suddenly and is sometimes severe
What are the Different Types of Fibroids
Fibroids or leiomyoma are classified based on their location. There are three broad types and they are:
- Submucosal fibroids
Submucosal fibroids are the rarest type of non-cancerous fibroids that grow in the inner layer of the uterus. Like the other forms of fibroids, they most times also present with no symptoms. However, in cases when they do, you can expect to see fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding usually accompanied with clots, anemia and even infertility
- Intramural fibroids
These are the most common type of fibroids and develop within the muscular walls of the womb. This type of fibroid keeps growing in size, making the uterus stretch and expand in size.
They can become so large, they cause reproductive issues for the woman. Some cases of intramural fibroids grow to cover the spot a baby would otherwise have implanted itself after fertilization, thereby causing miscarriage.
Three of the most common causes of intramural fibroids include hormonal imbalance, genetic factors and certain lifestyle habits..
- Subserosal fibroids
Subserosal myomas grow outside of the uterus and may extend outwardly, leading to other health and reproductive complications like abnormal bleeding and pain in the pelvic region.
What Causes Fibroids to Grow Rapidly
There is no clear-cut explanation as to why myoma develops, but studies have found hormone levels in a woman might be one of the culprits responsible.
During a woman’s reproductive years, two hormones responsible for reproductive development, estrogen and progesterone, need to be balanced or she will likely have one or more fertility and reproductive issue, including fibroids.
A woman’s chances of developing fibroids become higher when estrogen levels are high, which is why fibroids occur more during a woman’s reproductive years when estrogen and progesterone hormones are active and shrink during menopause, a time characterized by low estrogen.
Other causes of leiomyoma (fibroids) include genetics (when a close family member gets diagnosed with it) and diet (taking diets like red meat, caffeine and alcohol)
Risks of Developing Leiomyoma (fibroids)
While any woman can develop leiomyoma (fibroids), the chances of getting it gets higher if you have one or more of these factors:
- Being a Black Woman
Women of all races have a risk of developing leiomyoma (fibroids), however, your risk gets higher if you are a woman of African-American descent.
- You Have a Family Member with Fibroids
You also have some risks if a mother, sister or any other close relative has been diagnosed with fibroids.
- You Have Never Been Pregnant
Women who have never been pregnant also have some risks of myoma. This risk goes down with each full term pregnancy you carry and women with five or more full term pregnancies have way lesser risk than women who have never been pregnant.
- Being Older in Age
Myoma typically occurs in older women, although younger women, especially black women have been known to develop fibroids in their 20s and 30s.
- The Use of Pills
Using contraceptive pills has also been known to pose some risk of myoma as these contain a moderate to high amounts of the estrogen hormones, which has been known to make the fibroids cell swell.
- Vitamin D Deficiency
A recent study has also found that a deficiency in vitamin D, the hormone responsible for the development of strong bones and teeth, has been linked to the development of leiomyoma (fibroids). In the same light, taking this vitamin has been proven to help shrink leiomyoma and are therefore, strongly recommended.
How is Leiomyoma (fibroids) Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you might have fibroids he would proceed to carry out some tests or exams to confirm this suspicion. These usually include
- Pelvic Exam
- An MRI Scan to determine the size and quantity
Uterine Fibroids Treatment
There are quite a few treatment options available for the treatment of fibroids and most of these would usually involve a series of steps to achieve the desired result.
However, in most cases, you would get started on a certain drug, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) which makes the body produce less estrogen and progesterone, thereby shrinking the fibroids.
While these drugs are effective in shrinking fibroids, they come with certain side effects or symptoms like excessive sweat, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness.
Other medications used include
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Birth control pills
Other treatment options for leiomyoma include
- Hysterectomy: This is a surgery to remove the womb and is done when a woman no longer wants children.
- Myomectomy – A myomectomy is the removal of the fibroid tissues only and women who opt for this can still go on to have kids.
- Endometrial ablation – This is a surgical procedure that removes the lining of the uterus and is done to control excessive bleeding.
How to Shrink Fibroids Naturally
Although unproven, there are a few herbs and natural ways believed to be effective in shrinking fibroids. These herbs or foods are effective and also readily available. They include:
- Avoiding red meat
- Taking more legumes
- Avoiding sugar
- Avoiding stress
- Taking dandelion
- Limiting fried foods
- Eating lots of vegetables and fruits[
- Applying castor oil topically on the region
- Eating foods like chaste berry, milk thistle, green tea, milk, garlic and apple cider vinegar
Complications of Leiomyoma (Fibroids)
Complications of leiomyoma include
- Excessive bleeding
- Pain in your abdominal region
- Anemia from heavy bleeding
- Fatigue from the loss of blood
- Placenta abruption
- Preterm birth