In the best-case scenarios, uterine fibroid symptoms can be a mild inconvenience. Unfortunately, there are many women who are suffering from more severe symptoms that can impact both their physical and mental wellbeing. Our team at North Texas Fibroids serves multiple areas in Texas, including Dallas, Flower Mound, and Cedar Hill. We’re here to help you better understand your uterine fibroid symptoms.
What Are the Main Uterine Fibroid Symptoms?
Uterine fibroid symptoms can vary; one of the ways symptoms can show up is through chronic pelvic discomfort. Women who have uterine fibroids, especially if the fibroids are large, may feel pressure in their pelvis or abdomen. They may also feel a sense of heaviness in these areas. This daily sensation can usually be described as more of an uncomfortable feeling than it is a sharp pain.
This discomfort can make exercise more difficult than normal. Vigorous movement can make the pain and pressure worse. You may also be more likely to notice pelvic discomfort when you’re bending over or lying on your stomach. In short, anything that increases pressure on your abdomen can increase these uncomfortable sensations.
Periods Can Magnify this Symptom
Women who don’t have daily pain associated with fibroids may still experience more severe pelvic pain during their periods. This pain can become so severe that they may have to call in sick to work or cancel all their plans for a few days so they can rest and recover.
Heavy Menstrual Cycles
Heavy periods aren’t uncommon and can have a host of causes. If, however, you feel as though your blood flow is heavier and more disruptive to your life than it should be, uterine fibroids may be to blame. In fact, heavy bleeding is one of the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids.
Heavy bleeding is a bit of a vague term, but women who struggle with heavy periods may have cycles that go on longer than eight days, pass large clots of blood, become anemic, or find themselves constantly changing out their sanitary products to keep up with the blood flow.
How Do Fibroids Make Periods Heavier?
Uterine fibroids may make your bleeding heavier due to some or all of the following factors:
- The stimulation of blood vessels
- A higher level of prostaglandin hormones
- An inability of the uterus to contract and stop bleeding
Pain During Intercourse
One symptom of uterine fibroids can be pain during intercourse and sometimes bleeding after intercourse. This condition can affect emotional as well as physical wellbeing since the symptoms can be severe enough that intercourse is avoided altogether.
Fibroids that are near the cervix are the most likely to cause pain during sex. Like any symptom, how severe this symptom is can range per individual. You may notice a slightly uncomfortable pressure, or the pain could be severe. Some positions during intercourse may also be more painful than others.
Back or Leg Pain
Back pain can result from fibroids pressing up against the muscles of your back, or putting pressure on your spinal nerves. This pain is sometimes described as a radiating pain that can shoot down from your back to your legs.
The severity of symptoms can be tied to the location of the fibroids as well as their growth rate. One major concern with this symptom is that the shooting pain can make it difficult to get a full night’s sleep. You may find the back pain waking you up at night and affecting your ability to focus during the day.
The uterus is positioned right in front of the rectum. The rectum is a section of the large intestine; it holds stool until the stool is released through a bowel movement. Uterine fibroids can push up against the rectum, which can affect its ability to pass stool properly.
This can cause symptoms of tenesmus, in which you feel like you need to pass stool, even when you may not have to. Constipation can occur when the rectum is restricted to the point where stool has difficulty passing through.
Fibroids can press against the bladder. When they do so, it can make you feel like you have to urinate more frequently. The feeling can be so urgent that it can wake some patients up at night, causing them to make a mad dash for the bathroom.
On top of frequent urination, uterine fibroids can also contribute to urinary incontinence. This condition weakens your ability to control your bladder. Urinary incontinence can be mild and inconsistent, or it can be severe enough that women wear menstrual pads daily to protect themselves.
What About Bowel Incontinence?
Uterine fibroids are more likely to cause incontinence of the bladder instead of bowel incontinence. Fibroids can affect the bowel as we mentioned before, but when they do so it’s more likely to cause constipation than incontinence.
Infertility or Miscarriage
It’s important to state that most women who have uterine fibroids are able to maintain a normal and healthy pregnancy. However, in some cases, especially if there are numerous fibroids or the fibroids are large, a woman’s ability to become pregnant may be affected. It may also make her more likely to suffer a miscarriage.
One way fibroids can interfere with fertility is by blocking the fallopian tubes, but they may also distort the endometrial cavity. Having these obstructive fibroids removed may help some women have better success in becoming pregnant.
Abdominal swelling can be another sign of uterine fibroids, especially in the lower abdomen. Fibroids affecting the uterus can cause it to grow in size. If you think about it, the uterus is designed to be able to expand, so it may expand significantly if there is a developing fibroid.
While it is crucial to rule out other potential causes, if you find yourself bloating for no reason, or you find yourself unable to wear clothes that used to be comfortable for you, a fibroid could be to blame.
Understanding Uterine Fibroids
In most cases, uterine fibroids are benign, noncancerous tumors that develop in and around the uterus. They are generally made of fibrous connective tissue and smooth muscle cells.
The growth rate of fibroids is largely individual, not only per person but even per fibroid. A woman with multiple fibroids may have one that grows more quickly than another. They can range drastically in size. Some fibroids are only the size of a pea, while others can grow to be as big as five or six inches.
The Three Types of Uterine Fibroids
The most common kind of uterine fibroid is a subserosal fibroid. They range in size, and can sometimes attach themselves to the uterus with a stalk. They can push against the uterus and the pelvis.
Another form uterine fibroids can take is an intramural form. These grow in the wall of the uterus. Finally, we have submucosal fibroids, which are the least common form. They can develop within the uterus itself. Like subserosal fibroids, submucosal fibroids may have a stalk to attach themselves to the uterus.
FAQ for Uterine Fibroids
1. How Can I Know for Sure That I Have Uterine Fibroids?
If you are concerned that you may be dealing with symptoms of uterine fibroids, we recommend getting diagnosed. While fibroids can sometimes be found during a pelvic exam, there are other ways to check for fibroids as well. Some of these tests can include:
These same diagnostic tests can double as a way to monitor fibrous growth. This can be a good way to tell whether or not a uterine fibroid is reaching the point where treatment should be considered.
2. Why Do I Have Fibroids?
As much as we’d love to give you a clear answer to why some women develop uterine fibroids, there is, unfortunately, no clear answer. At this time, there isn’t a proven way to prevent them either. Some factors may put you more at risk for uterine fibroids. Hormone levels can interfere with the growth rate of fibroids. In fact, after menopause fibroids tend to shrink.
There also seem to be hereditary factors. A woman may be more likely to have fibroids if her sister or mother had them. African American women tend to have higher rates of uterine fibroids than other racial groups. As for what you can do at home, the best answer we can give is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet and exercise routine may help reduce some of the painful uterine fibroid symptoms.
3. When Should I Seek Out Treatment?
This is a common condition, and not everyone who has fibroids will need to seek out treatment. When symptoms related to these fibroids are interfering with your health and wellbeing, that’s when we would recommend you have them addressed.
4. Should I Consider Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
There are multiple treatment options for uterine fibroids. If you have discovered you have fibroids but they aren’t causing any negative symptoms, you may not have to seek out treatment just yet. In this case, it’s still important to monitor the fibroids and your symptoms.
If the fibroids begin to grow too large, or if you develop symptoms that are interfering with your comfort, it may be time to consider fibroid embolization. This minimally-invasive treatment is carried out with the goal of providing an alternative to open surgeries. Our team specializes in this treatment process and would be happy to help you determine if it would be the right fit for your needs.
The First Step
The treatment will begin with a very small incision into the femoral artery. This will allow our specialized Interventional Radiologist the access they need to the upper thigh through the femoral artery. Our X-ray equipment will guide the IR doctor as they pass a catheter into the femoral artery.
The Second Step
Once the catheter has reached the targeted fibroid, embolic material can be injected. This material is made of tiny spheres. When it’s injected into the vessels that provide blood to the fibroid, it will block these vessels and starve the fibroid of oxygen and blood.
The Final Step
Once both sides of the uterine artery have received treatment, the catheter can be removed. The incision can then be closed with a vascular closure device. With a little finger pressure and a bandaid, the process is over. This treatment offers a high success rate, without the downtime associated with more invasive surgeries.
With no way of sustaining its growth, after treatment, the uterine fibroid will shrink. Symptoms should shrink right along with it.
Reclaim Your Wellness
Uterine fibroid embolization is our specialty. If you have questions about this process, we have the experience and knowledge available to help you make the right call. If you’re ready to learn more about how this treatment can help your symptoms, reach out to North Texas Fibroids, serving Dallas, Flower Mound, and Cedar Hill, TX, today for a consultation.