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Uterine fibroids are growths that form inside the lining of the uterus, on its outer surface, within its wall, or attached by a stem-like structure. They are typically benign.
Out of the entire population of women, approximately 60-80% of women will have fibroids by the time menopause is reached.
The cause of fibroids is not well understood but the hormone estrogen seems to make them grow. Because the highest levels of estrogen are produced during a women’s childbearing years, many women are affected in their 30’s and 40’s. Fibroids are rare in women under 20, and they typically stabilize in size or shrink after menopause.
A family history of fibroids, obesity, or early onset of puberty can increase the risk of a women developing uterine fibroids.
Most fibroids do not cause any symptoms and you may choose to do nothing. Surgical intervention is required in ~20% of women with fibroids. Treatment of fibroids might be necessary when they cause:
* Long, gushing periods and cramping
* Spotting or bleeding between periods
* Painful periods
* An urge to urinate often
* Pain during sex
* Lower back pain
* Pelvic pain
* Difficulty getting pregnant
* Problems during pregnancy, such as miscarriage or preterm labor
* Constipation and backache
* Fullness or pressure in your belly
The diagnosis of uterine fibroids can often be done through a pelvic exam. Your doctor may send you to have an ultrasound or another type of test that shows pictures of your uterus. These help your doctor see how large your fibroids are and where they are growing.
Not all fibroids require intervention. In some cases, such as large fibroids, or when a woman is experiencing infertility, it may be necessary to surgically remove the uterine fibroid(s). Your doctor will discuss all options with you.