Fibroids are round growths that develop in the uterus. They are almost always benign, or non-cancerous. Fibroids range in size from as small as a pea to as large as a melon. They are also called leiomyomas or myomas.
Fibroids are very common, affecting an estimated 20 to 50 percent of all women. They are most likely to affect women in their 30s and 40s, and for reasons we don't understand, occur more frequently in African-Americans. Many women with fibroids have family members who also have them.
Some fibroids grow steadily during the reproductive years, while others stay the same size for many years. All fibroids should stop growing after menopause. If your fibroids grow after menopause, you should consult your doctor.
Usually, fibroids cause no symptoms and don't require treatment. But if symptoms occur, you should seek medical attention.
Types of Fibroids
Fibroids can grow in different parts of the uterus:
Pedunculated fibroids are attached to the uterine wall by stalks.
Subserosal fibroids extend outward from the uterine wall.
Submucosal fibroids expand from the uterine wall into the uterine cavity.
Intramural fibroids develop within the uterine wall.
Different types of fibroids are associated with different symptoms. For example, submucosal fibroids typically cause heavy periods. In contrast, subserosal fibroids are more likely to push against the bladder, causing frequent urination.
Causes of Fibroids
Doctors and medical researchers do not know what causes fibroids to develop. There is evidence that the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, can make them grow. During pregnancy, when the hormone levels are high, fibroids tend to increase in size. After menopause, when the hormone levels are low, fibroids stop growing and may become smaller.

Symptoms of fibroids may include: 

Heavy Vaginal Bleeding — Excessively heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding is a common symptom. Women describe soaking through sanitary protection in less than an hour, passing blood clots and being unable to leave the house during the heaviest day of flow. As a result, some women develop anemia, also known as a low blood count. Anemia can cause fatigue, headaches and lightheadedness.
If heavy bleeding interferes with your everyday activities or if you develop anemia, you should see your doctor to discuss fibroid treatment options.

Pelvic Discomfort — Women with large fibroids may feel heaviness or pressure in their lower abdomen or pelvis. Often this is described as a vague discomfort rather than a sharp pain. Sometimes, the enlarged uterus makes it difficult to lie face down, bend over or exercise without discomfort.

Pelvic Pain — A less common symptom is acute, severe pain. This occurs when a fibroid goes through a process called degeneration. Usually, the pain is localized to a specific spot and improves on its own within two to four weeks. Using a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, can decrease the pain significantly. However, chronic pelvic pain can also occur. This type of pain is usually mild but persistent and confined to a specific area.

Bladder Problems — The most common bladder symptom is needing to urinate frequently. A woman may wake up several times during the night to empty her bladder. Occasionally, women are unable to urinate despite a full bladder.
These symptoms are caused by fibroids pressing against the bladder, reducing its capacity for holding urine or blocking the outflow of urine. Treatment for bladder problems can provide great relief.

Low Back Pain — Rarely, fibroids press against the muscles and nerves of the lower back and cause back pain. A large fibroid on the back surface of the uterus is more likely to cause back pain than a small fibroid within the uterine wall. Because back pain is so common, it is important to look for other causes of the pain before attributing it to fibroids.

Rectal Pressure — Fibroids also can press against the rectum and cause a sensation of rectal fullness, difficulty having a bowel movement or pain with bowel movements. Sometimes, fibroids can lead to the development of a hemorrhoid.

Discomfort or Pain With Sexual Intercourse — Fibroids can make sexual intercourse painful or uncomfortable. The pain may occur only in specific positions or during certain times of the menstrual cycle. Discomfort during intercourse is a significant issue. If your doctor doesn't ask you about this symptom, make sure you mention it.

Go to top