Fibroids affect about 30 percent of all women by the age of 35, and 20 to 80 percent by the age of 50. They usually develop between 16 and 50 years old. These are the reproductive years when estrogen levels are highest.
Types of fibroids:
Intramural: This is the most common type. An intramural fibroid is built into the muscle wall of the uterus.
Subserous fibroids: These extend beyond the wall of the uterus and develop into the surrounding outer uterine tissue layer. They can develop into stalked fibroids, where the fibroid has a stalk and can grow quite large.
Submucosal fibroids: This type can grow in the cavity of the uterus. It is usually found in the muscle under the inner wall of the wall.
Cervical fibroids: Cervical fibroids take root in the cervix, called the cervix.
symptoms of uterine fibroids?
Most women with fibroids will experience no symptoms at all. However, large or numerous fibroids can cause the following symptoms:
- Heavy or prolonged periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Pelvic pain and pressure
- Frequent urination
- Low back pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Difficulty getting pregnant
How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?
Ultrasound: Ultrasound is the most common scan used for fibroids. It uses sound waves to diagnose fibroids and involves frequencies (pitch) that are much higher than what you can hear. A doctor or technician places an ultrasound probe on the abdomen or inside the vagina to help scan the uterus and ovaries. It’s fast, simple, and generally accurate. However, it relies on the experience and skill of the doctor or technician to produce good results. Other tests such as MRI may be better for other conditions, such as adenomyosis.
MRI: This imaging test uses magnets and radio waves to produce images. It allows your provider to get a road map of the size, number and location of fibroids. A distinction can also be made between fibroids and adenomyosis, which is sometimes misdiagnosed. We use MRI to confirm a diagnosis and help you determine which treatments are best for you. MRI may also provide a better option for related conditions such as adenomyosis.
Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): Doctors typically use an HSG for women who have trouble getting pregnant. He checks the inside of the uterus (uterine cavity) and the fallopian tubes. After a doctor places a catheter (small tube) in the uterus, the doctor slowly injects a special dye for contrast and takes x-rays.
Hysterosonogram: Doctors use a hysterosonogram to see the inside of the uterus. After placing a small catheter inside the uterus, they inject water while taking a series of ultrasound images. The test can confirm the presence of uterine polyps or intracavitary fibroids that can cause heavy bleeding.
Laparoscopy: For laparoscopy, a doctor makes tiny incisions in or near the navel. The doctor then inserts a long, thin instrument (laparoscope) into the abdomen and pelvis. The laparoscope has a bright light and a camera. It allows your doctor to see the uterus and surrounding structures. Eyesight can help your doctor determine if you have a condition such as endometriosis, which can cause pelvic pain.
Hysteroscopy: For suspected abnormalities inside the uterus, a doctor uses a long, thin instrument with a camera and a light. The doctor passes the instrument through the vagina and the cervix into the uterus. No incision is necessary. The doctor can look for fibroids or endometrial polyps in the uterine cavity with this approach. Your doctor may also remove certain types of fibroids during this procedure.
It is uncommon for fibroids to cause severe health consequences. However, women can have heavy bleeding that can lead to dangerous anemia, or lack of red blood cells. Rarely, large fibroids can press on the bladder and the channel (ureter) that sends urine there from the kidney. This pressure can lead to kidney damage. Other complications include infertility and repeated pregnancy loss.
A woman with fibroids who suddenly develops severe abdominal pain should contact her doctor immediately.