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Fibroids: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About fibroids

Fibroid also called ‘uterine leiomyoma’ is a gynaecological disorder characterised by slow growing tumour of the muscle and fibrous tissue of the uterus. Fibroid of the uterus vary in size and number. Most of the cases of fibroids are benign and non-cancerous in nature.

Fibroids: Incidence, age and sex

Fibroids are one of the common gynaecological disorders encountered in women. Fibroids most commonly occur in women of the reproductive age group. Although it may occur at any age, it mainly afflicts women in the time period between menarche and menopause.

Signs and symptoms of fibroids: Diagnosis

The clinical features of fibroids may vary from asymptomatic to mild to severe. Most of the affected women remain asymptomatic until the fibroid is large enough to cause symptoms. The most prominent symptom is heavy bleeding or passage of blood clots which may be accompanied with lower back pain or intense pelvic pain. The fibroid, if large, generally causes lower abdominal discomfort or even a sense of abdominal bloating. Occasionally uterine fibroid, if large in size, may press upon the bladder resulting in urinary symptoms like increased frequency or urgency. Some affected individuals have also been documented to experience excruciating pain during sexual intercourse.

Fibroids are usually diagnosed on routine gynaecological examination. The specialist may feel a lumpy and enlarged uterus on palpation of the abdomen, in cases when the fibroids are multiple in number or large in size. Imaging modality like vaginal or abdominal ultrasonography is the test of choice to diagnose the condition. In presence of any doubt, the condition can be diagnosed by help of diagnostic laparoscopy.

Causes and prevention of fibroids

The exact cause of fibroids is not very clear. However it is postulated that increased level of oestrogen may result in this phenomenon. Sometimes, factors like obesity or intake of oral contraceptives may increase the risk of occurrence of fibroids.

Fibroids: Complications

Presence of fibroid may result in increased chances of infertility or abortions. Heavy bleeding in periods may lead to anaemia in many affected women. Very rarely a fibroid may have a malignant change.

Fibroids: Treatment

Generally, no treatment is needed if the fibroid is small and causes no apparent symptoms. However, in cases of increased blood loss due to heavy menstrual bleeding or large sized fibroid, surgical intervention is advisable. In women who are planning their family, surgical procedure may be done to remove the fibroid only and conserving the uterus. This procedure is called ‘myomectomy’. However ‘hysterectomy’ (removal of uterus) is done in women who have completed their family. The affected women may need iron supplements in conditions of excess menstrual blood loss which leads to anaemia. It is advisable to consult a fertility specialist if a woman with fibroid finds it difficult to conceive.