Menstruation can be a difficult time for any woman. You might feel bloated, crampy, and more easily fatigued than normal. But if you’re in pain, bleed heavily, or have to urinate more frequently, you could have uterine fibroids.
Although fibroids are benign (noncancerous), they can grow large enough to prevent you from getting pregnant easily or could even cause a miscarriage.
If you suspect you have uterine fibroids, expert OB/GYN Sharon Smith, MD and her team at OBGYN Care of Houston can help you find ways to manage, shrink, or remove them. What are fibroids and how can you tell if you have them?
Uterine fibroids are benign growths composed of uterine muscle tissue that appear during a woman’s reproductive years. About one in 10 women in the United States has fibroids. You’re more likely to have fibroids if you’re 30-40 years old or if you’re African American.
Fibroids can grow anywhere in or on your uterus, including on the outside. Doctors categorize fibroids based on their location and shape:
Submucosal fibroids are located in the uterine wall and extend into the uterus itself.
Intramural fibroids are located in the uterine wall, but don’t extend into the uterus.
Subserosal fibroids are located on the exterior of the uterus.
Pedunculated fibroids have stalks that can attach anywhere in or on the uterus.
Fibroids can range in size from minuscule to as large as a grapefruit. If your fibroids are small, they might not cause symptoms and you may never even know you have them.
When your fibroids are large enough, they may start to cause uncomfortable symptoms. Common signs and symptoms that could indicate that you have fibroids include:
Pedunculated fibroids can twist and cause fever, nausea, and pain. Rapidly growing fibroids might also be extra painful.
During your well-woman exams, Dr. Smith always palpates your pelvic area to check for fibroids. If you have symptoms of fibroids, such as heavy periods, or if she feels a mass in your pelvis during your exam, she may order other tests, including:
Depending on the size and location of your fibroids, Dr. Smith makes her treatment recommendations.
If your fibroids are small enough, Dr. Smith may recommend hormone therapy to shrink them. She may advise destroying large fibroids with heat generated by an ultrasound device or removing them with surgery.
Women who’ve finished their families might benefit from a procedure that blocks the uterine arteries that feed the fibroids or from endometrial ablation, in which Dr. Smith removes the lining of your uterus.
Your treatment options partly depend on whether you want to become pregnant or not. If you need hormones to shrink your fibroids, Dr. Smith only keeps you on them for a short time so that your cycle returns to normal.
If you have large fibroids and become pregnant — particularly if you’ve miscarried before — Dr. Smith considers yours a high-risk pregnancy. She and our team from OBGYN Care of Houston ensure that you and your baby get the extra care and attention you need to have a safe and healthy delivery.
To find out if your uncomfortable symptoms or fertility woes are caused by uterine fibroids, call us at our Houston, Texas, office today. Dr. Smith also offers virtual visits in appropriate cases.