For many women, uterine fibroids do not cause any symptoms, but for others, they can cause unpleasant symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, and frequent urination. Treatment is typically only recommended if fibroids become troublesome, and although surgery may be necessary in some cases, there are a range of nonsurgical and minimally-invasive treatments available, which you can learn more about here.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths, made up of muscle and fibrous tissue, that develop in or around the uterus. Although the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, they are thought to occur for a number of reasons, including genetic changes, hormones, and other factors. Fibroids can range in size and number and may grow slowly or rapidly or remain consistent in size. Some may also shrink over time.
Uterine fibroids often do not cause symptoms and may only be found coincidently during a routine pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound. For some women, however, they can lead to unpleasant symptoms, which can vary depending on their location, size, and the number of fibroids. The most common signs and symptoms include:
In some cases, uterine fibroids may make it harder to conceive or may cause problems during pregnancy, depending on the size and location of the fibroids. They can also lead to complications such as anemia, related to heavy blood loss.
Fibroids can cause irregularities in the shape of the uterus, and they may be discovered incidentally during a routine pelvic exam. Alternatively, if you have symptoms of fibroids, your doctor may request tests such as lab tests, ultrasound, MRI, or hysterosonography to confirm the diagnosis and to create an appropriate treatment plan.
If your fibroids aren’t causing symptoms, treatment is not usually necessary. Instead, your provider will monitor your condition at your regular well-woman check-ups, and if symptoms develop, treatment may be required.
Uterine fibroids can also shrink after menopause, as the body stops making as much estrogen and progesterone.
There are several methods that can be used to treat fibroids. These are the most common options.
Medications may be recommended to help regulate your menstrual cycle. This can help with symptoms such as heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain and pressure. Some medications may also help to shrink fibroids.
A uterine fibroid embolization may be used to help shrink fibroids. The treatment may be a good option if you experience bothersome symptoms but are looking to avoid surgery to remove the fibroids. Treatment works by injecting embolic agents (via a catheter) into the blood vessels supplying the fibroids to cut off their blood supply, causing them to shrink and die.
With radiofrequency ablation, radiofrequency energy is used to destroy fibroids and shrink the blood vessels that feed them. Treatment can be carried out as a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure (which uses a laparoscope) or a transcervical procedure (through the cervix, using ultrasound guidance).
A myomectomy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure that can be carried out in numerous ways, depending on the size, volume, and location of fibroids. One option utilizes the da Vinci surgical system, which allows the surgeon to perform complicated procedures with great flexibility and precision. The procedure involves the surgeon manipulating small robotic tools to remove uterine fibroids. It uses 3D imaging to enhance the surgeon’s view of the surgical site, so the procedure can be completed in the safest, most effective, and most efficient manner possible. Other benefits of this type of surgery include smaller incisions, minimal blood loss, less scarring, a reduction in post-surgical pain, a reduced risk of infection and other complications, and a faster recovery compared with traditional surgery.
A hysterectomy, which involves removing the uterus, is only considered for severe symptoms or if other treatments don’t work. It is a permanent solution for uterine fibroids but is only recommended for women who are past childbearing age or who definitely do not want to get pregnant in the future.
If you are experiencing painful, heavy periods, or other symptoms associated with uterine fibroids and would like to find out which treatments could help you, call Dekalb Women’s Specialists Gynecological and Obstetrical Care.
Our highly-skilled, knowledgeable, and compassionate providers are experts in the field of women’s health. We provide an extensive range of services including medical or surgical treatment for a range of gynecology conditions, including fibroid treatment, comprehensive well-woman exams, preventive screenings, infertility evaluations, full-service pregnancy care, menopause symptom relief, and more.