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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Fibroids

What Are the Risk Factors?

Fibroids occur more than three times as commonly and are much more likely to be symptomatic in African American women than Caucasians.  Fibroids in your mother or sister(s) may also increase your risk.  They are most likely to occur in women 35-50.  They are most likely in women who have never been pregnant.  Obesity or other situations that increase the body's levels of unopposed estrogen (e.g. sustained stress or increased number of anovulatory cycles) have also been associated with fibroids. There are no other known risk factors. 

Because not much is known about the causes or risk factors for fibroids, there are not many known preventive measures women can take.   Several studies indicate that athletic women have a lower risk of developing fibroids than inactive or obese women. Maintaining a healthy weight may be helpful to prevent fibroids.

What Are the Symptoms?

While the vast majority of women with fibroids have no symptoms, fibroids can be responsible for a variety of symptoms with a broad range in severity.  While the symptoms can cause a great deal of discomfort, they are rarely life threatening.  The two general symptom categories are heavy menstrual bleeding, unusually frequent urination and pressure or pain.  Generally, fibroid pain is worst before menses, lessening during and afterwards.  The symptoms generally depend upon the size, location, and number of the fibroid(s): 

  • Back pain
  • painful menses
  • heavy or "flooding" periods, sometimes with clumps of blood clots
  • fatigue, usually from anemia or blood loss
  • constipation or rectal pressure
  • pain with intercourse
  • bleeding after intercourse
  • lower abdominal pressure, bloating, or a sense of "fullness"
  • bladder pressure causing urinary frequency or even leakage. 
  • While fibroids don't typically cause irregular periods, they may cause some spotting between periods.
  • leg pain (especially down the back of the leg) from pressure on certain nerves
  • infertility or repeated miscarriages.
What Are the Complications?
  • Infertility
  • prolapse (when the uterus protrudes into the vagina)
  • incontinence (leaky bladder)
  • anemia (low blood count excessive blood loss)
  • iron deficiency.
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 Complications of hysterectomy include incontinence and depression in nearly half of all patients related to a lost organ of femininity. 

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