About Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids affect 25-40% of women in the US. These noncancerous uterine growths range in size and severity. While the cause of fibroids is unknown, genetic changes, hormones, and other factors like insulin may contribute. Fibroids can shrink and grow over time, likely due to a range in hormone levels.
Some women may not know they have uterine fibroids if symptoms are not present. However, larger fibroids often come with significant symptoms, including:
- Excessive or painful bleeding during periods and/or bleeding longer than one week
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- Pelvic pressure or pain, especially during intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Low back pain
- Chronic vaginal discharge
- Increased abdominal enlargement or a feeling of fullness/bloating
Uterine fibroids don't typically interfere with getting pregnant, but certain types could cause infertility, pregnancy loss, or an increased risk of pregnancy complications.
The following risk factors impact your chances of developing uterine fibroids:
- Age. Fibroids typically affect reproductive age/pre-menopausal women.
- Race. Black women are more likely to develop fibroids, typically starting at a younger age and developing more fibroids that tend to be larger in size and bring more severe symptoms.
- Heredity. Women whose female relatives had uterine fibroids are at an increased risk.
- Early menstruation. Starting your period at an earlier age increases your risk for fibroids.
- Diet. Women with diets that are higher in red meat and lower in vegetables, fruit, and dairy are more likely to develop fibroids. Drinking alcohol and/or being obese can also contribute.
- Vitamin D deficiency.
Determining the location and size of the fibroids and assessing the severity of symptoms are the first steps in diagnosis. Many women are diagnosed with uterine fibroids during a physical. A discussion of symptoms and pelvic exam or ultrasound help physicians to make a diagnosis. A pelvic ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging test which uses sound waves to create a picture of your uterus.
Treatment: Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
Treatment options are dictated by the type and location of the fibroids. While some medications are available to manage discomfort and pain, they simply treat the symptoms, not the fibroids. Surgery was once the only treatment option, with either hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) or myomectomy (surgical removal of the fibroids). Both eliminate the possibility of having children. Instead, ARA Health is happy to offer uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a non-invasive alternative to surgery. Using image guidance, an interventional radiologist inserts a small catheter into the uterine artery to block the flow of blood from the uterine artery to the fibroids. By blocking the blood flow, the fibroid shrink.