Around two-thirds of women develop fibroids by the age of 50, but only a third of those women experience symptoms. In America, that means nearly 26 million women have fibroids, and about 15 million suffer from painful fibroid symptoms. Here’s how to find out whether you might be one of them.
Dr. John Kirk at Adventist Health in Napa, St. Helena, and Hidden Valley Lake, California, has helped diagnose many women with fibroids on the basis of painful symptoms. However, he also knows how to watch out for fibroids that may be asymptomatic but could still be a cause for concern.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are benign tumors that form from accumulations of fibrous and muscular tissue. They can be found outside your uterus (subserous fibroids), inside the walls of your uterus (intramural fibroids), or on the inside of your uterine walls (submucous fibroids).
While the underlying causes of fibroids are uncertain, they seem to grow with exposure to your natural hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Overtime, your risk of fibroids increases, but they usually shrink after menopause.
You’re also more likely you get fibroids if you are overweight, haven’t been pregnant, or are from an African or Carribean background. Although some fibroids don’t cause symptoms at all, it’s still important to have regular well-woman exams with Dr. Kirk to screen for asymptomatic fibroids, as they can still cause fertility problems and other complications in the future.
While many fibroids are asymptomatic, they can also cause concerning symptoms as well. Some of these symptoms can include:
If your periods last more than seven days, if you need to change your tampon or pad after less than two hours, or if you pass clots that are larger than a quarter, you may have heavy periods, also known as menorrhagia.
This is a very common symptom of fibroids, but can also be caused by other serious disorders, so it’s important to speak to Dr. Kirk about this symptom. If left untreated, menorrhagia may cause anemia or other health complications.
Pain or pressure
While some cramping pain around your period can be normal, severe or frequent pelvic pain can be a sign of uterine fibroids or another pelvic condition. If your pain interferes with daily activities or you experience sudden severe pain, it’s time to speak to Dr. Kirk.
You may be surprised to know that, depending on the size and position of your fibroids, they can also cause back and leg pain as well if they’re pressing on your sensitive spinal or sciatic nerves.
Bowel and bladder problems
Some fibroids can cause bowel and bladder problems depending on their location and size. If they are large enough to press against the bladder, they can cause increased urination or bladder pain, while fibroids pressing against the bowels can cause bloating and constipation.
Difficulty getting pregnant
If you’ve been unable to conceive after a year of trying, fibroids may be to blame. Fibroids can change the shape of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or cervix making it harder for sperm to travel to the egg. Depending on the type and size of your fibroids, surgical removal may improve your fertility outcomes.
If you’ve been suffering from any of the above symptoms, speak to Dr. Kirk to find out whether you might have fibroids. Depending on your symptoms and the size and location of your fibroids, Dr. Kirk may suggest nonsurgical treatments such as fibroid-shrinking medications or surgical treatments such as a myomectomy.
Here at Adventist Health, Dr. Kirk has offered minimally invasive, robotic-assisted myomectomy since 2004, making us one of the first in the nation to offer this ground-breaking technique. Don’t suffer from fibroids and fibroids symptoms in silence. Call Adventist Health or book an appointment online.