Uterine fibroids are benign uterine tumors. They can grow inside your uterus, on the outside of your uterus, or within your uterine wall. Sometimes fibroids even attach to your uterus by a stalk, or stem. They can grow to be so large they change the shape and appearance of your uterus, mimicking early pregnancy. Or they can be so minuscule they’re barely noticeable to even the trained eye.
OB/GYN, Dr. Daniel Esteves, diagnoses and treats uterine fibroids and can customize treatment to address your specific needs. He shares this primer on fibroids and what factors may increase your risk for developing them.
Symptoms of fibroids
Fibroids are most common among women of childbearing age, typically in the 30s and 40s. While fibroids aren’t cancerous, nor do they make you more predisposed to the disease, they do create pain and other symptoms that can be bothersome.
The symptoms of uterine fibroids may include:
- Heavy bleeding during your period
- Periods that last longer than 7 days
- Back pain or leg pain
- Frequent urination or trouble emptying your bladder
- Pelvic pain even when you aren’t menstruating
- Pressure or a feeling of fullness in your pelvic area
- Bleeding and spotting between periods
On the other hand, some women are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t experience any symptoms whatsoever. In fact, some women don’t discover they have fibroids until they’re being seen for another gynecological issue.
The cause of uterine fibroids remains unclear
The cause of uterine fibroids isn’t clear, but certain factors are suspect. Fibroids tend to grow when a woman produces the hormones estrogen and progesterone. When you enter menopause and the production of these hormones begins to wane, the fibroids tend to shrink significantly. There are other circumstances that can encourage fibroids to grow, such as growth hormones, an overabundance of iron in the blood, and stress.
Doctors have been able to pinpoint several risk factors that make a woman more prone to developing uterine fibroids. In addition to being in your childbearing years, your risk for developing fibroids goes up with these 5 factors:
- 1. A history of fibroids in your family: If your mother or sister developed fibroids, your chance of having them is higher than average.
- 2. Obesity: If you’re obese, your risk of developing fibroids is increased.
- 3. Early onset menstruation: If you were younger than 12 when you began menstruating, you’re at an increased risk for fibroids.
- 4. Race: African American women are at greater risk for developing fibroids and tend to develop earlier.
- 5. Insufficient levels of Vitamin D: Those women who have low levels of vitamin D in their childbearing years are at an increased risk for fibroids.
Your lifestyle can also have an impact on your risk for developing fibroids. Diets that are high in sugar and low in fiber can raise your risk for fibroids, and so can excessive alcohol consumption. Women who are sedentary have an increased risk as well.
Treatment for fibroids
Depending on the size of your fibroids, and the symptoms you’re experiencing, Dr. Esteves may suggest monitoring the growth, prescribe medication to slow the development of the fibroids, or schedule a surgical treatment.
If you’re at an increased risk for developing fibroids, or if you have any of the symptoms, contact our office in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Call to schedule a visit with Dr. Esteves or click the “request appointment” button while you’re here on the website.