What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are benign (noncancerous) tumors that develop in or around the uterus. Fibroids are medically known as leiomyomas and are tumors of the smooth muscle, the tissue that normally makes up that wall of the uterus.

Uterine fibroids are a common condition that affects approximately 20% of childbearing women. African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to develop the disease, as are women who are over 30 years of age, are overweight or obese, or have never given birth (Source: PubMedHealth).

The fibroids may appear as one large fibroid or many small fibroids. Their cause is not known; however, they appear to be associated with the presence of estrogen. During childbearing years when a woman’s estrogen levels are high, fibroids slowly increase in size. But during menopause when a woman’s estrogen levels are low, fibroids rarely occur.

The symptoms of uterine fibroids may occur frequently or only occasionally. The disease course varies among individuals. Some women have no symptoms at all, while others have abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, difficulty urinating, or pain during sexual intercourse. A uterine fibroid can grow large enough to put pressure on the bladder, making it difficult to expel urine and eventually causing infection.

Medications, hormones, and surgical procedures are effective in reducing symptoms or in removing the fibroid completely.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as uncontrollable vaginal bleeding, dizziness, rapid heart rate (tachycardia) or fainting or loss of consciousness.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for uterine fibroids but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids may not produce symptoms. In other cases they may cause abnormal bleeding or discomfort. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of uterine fibroids

You may experience uterine fibroids symptoms daily or only occasionally. Any of these symptoms can be severe:

CAUSES

What causes uterine fibroids?

The cause of uterine fibroids is not known, however their development seems to be associated with the female hormone estrogen. Fibroids appear during the childbearing years when a woman’s estrogen levels are high.

What are the risk factors for uterine fibroids?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing uterine fibroids. Not all people with risk factors will ge... Read more about uterine fibroidscauses

TREATMENTS

How are uterine fibroids treated?

Treatment for uterine fibroids begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine whether you have uterine fibroids, your health care provider will ask you to undergo diagnostic testing.

Some women with uterine fibroids never have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, however, you may be asked to undergo a pelvic examination and an Read more about uterine fibroidstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.