Uterine fibroids are benign growths that develop in the uterus. Fibroids are typically diagnosed during a regular pelvic exam. In some cases, the fibroids are detected manually during the exam or during a pap smear, but diagnostic imaging may be needed to confirm the exact size and position of the uterine fibroids. This is usually done via ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging.
Women who are in their childbearing years are most susceptible to fibroids. They're most common in women in their 30s and 40s, and it's also possible to have uterine fibroids while pregnant. There may be a family connection with uterine fibroids. If other close female family members like a mother or a sister have fibroids, it's more likely that a woman will develop them herself. African American women have an increased risk for uterine fibroids, and people who are overweight also have an increased risk of developing uterine fibroids. Eating a diet high in red meat and ham has been connected to increased uterine fibroid risk, but eating a diet heavy in green vegetables may help offset this risk.
Some women have fibroids for years, with no change in size. Other women may experience both expansion of existing fibroids and brand new fibroid growth over a fairly short period of time. When fibroids don't increase in size and there are no new fibroids, it's less likely that a patient will experience symptoms.
Uterine fibroids may not cause any symptoms at all. However, women who do have symptoms may experience very difficult problems like heavy bleeding, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and intense pelvic cramping.
Fibroid treatment is unique to each woman. If uterine fibroids aren't causing any symptoms, no treatment is usually needed. However, painful and difficult symptoms may require oral medication or a fibroid removal procedure. Dr. Barrett at Centennial Women's Health Center will work with each woman to help her find relief from symptoms caused by uterine fibroids.