Uterine fibroids are benign tumors in the uterus. Fibroids are generally common in women aged over 40 years. However, in recent times fibroids have become quite common in women in their 20’s and 30’s as well. Uterine fibroids are classified primarily based on their location. They can occur outside the uterus (subserous fibroids), within the uterus (submucosal fibroids) or in the wall of the uterus (intramural fibroids).
A majority of women with uterine fibroids do not have any symptoms or experience only mild symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids.
Signs & Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Heavy and Painful Menstrual Bleeding
The most common symptom of uterine fibroids is heavy menstrual periods. This necessitates frequent changing of sanitary protection. Most often, women also experience passing of blood clots. Periods are accompanied by severe pain, resulting in discomfort around the pelvic area.
Uterine fibroids may also result in prolonged menstrual cycles, for atleast seven days or more. Other symptoms related to bleeding include spotting before or after periods and bleeding between the periods. When heavy and prolonged menstrual cycles persist over a long period of time, it results in a fall in haemoglobin levels. This causes anaemia, symptoms of which include fatigue, weakness, headaches and light-headedness.
Discomfort in the Pelvic Region
Sometimes, women with large fibroids experience heaviness or bloating in the pelvic region, causing an uneasiness to sit comfortably or exercise normally.
Pain During Sexual Intercourse
Another common symptom of fibroids is painful and uncomfortable sexual intercourse. This may not occur during all days of the menstrual cycle; however, the presence of a fibroid causes pain during intercourse.
Sometimes a fibroid becomes very large and outgrows its blood supply. This causes the death of cells in the fibroid due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients. This process, called “degeneration” results in severe pain and sometimes causes mild fever too.
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As a fibroid grows in size, it presses against the bladder and exerts pressure on it. This reduces the capacity of the bladder to hold the urine, resulting in frequent urination.
Low Back Pain
A lesser known symptom of uterine fibroids is lower back pain, caused when large fibroids on the back surface of the uterus press against the lower back.
If fibroids grow towards the back, there can be a pressure on the rectum, resulting in difficulty or pain with bowel movements.
Sometimes a large fibroid can press and block the fallopian tubes resulting in infertility. Fibroids are also attributed with causing recurrent miscarriage and early onset of labour during pregnancy.
The symptoms associated with uterine fibroids vary according to the type of the fibroid. While subserous fibroids generally do not cause heavy menstrual bleeding, you can experience pain and added pressure on other organs. Submucosal fibroids cause excessive bleeding and prolonged menstrual cycles. Intramural fibroids can cause a bulky uterus and symptoms include heavy bleeding, severe pain, frequent urination and pressure on other organs. A woman may have one or multiple fibroids of any type. It is important to understand the size and the type of fibroid to decide on the treatment to be given.
Photo Credit: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/uterine-fibroids.cfm