Uterine Fibroids – What Are They And How Do You Treat Them
I was diagnosed with large uterine fibroids in December of 2010 and had to undergo hernia repair surgery as a result. A pelvic ultrasound revealed that numerous uterine fibroids, some large and some small, had formed the tumors were crowded within my uterus to such a degree that the pressure caused a hernia injury when I was about my daily activities. At the time I had no idea that something like that was possible! In the years since I have done a lot of research on the topic and have been able to get back to a normal daily routine but the uterine fibroids is a condition that I am living with and seeking treatment for. Here’s what you need to know about uterine fibroids.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus and another medical term for them is “leiomyoma” (leye-oh-meye-OH-muh). Fibroids are almost always benign, meaning not cancerous, and although fibroids can grow as a single tumor, there can be many of them in the uterus. Sometimes they can be as small as an apple seed, other times as big as a grapefruit.
This is important for us to know as women when we reflect upon our overall health because 20 percent to 80 percent of women develop fibroids by the time they reach the age of 50. Fibroids tend to be most common in women in their 40s and early 50s and although not all women with fibroids have symptoms, when symptoms occur they can often be hard to live with.
Some women experience pain and heavy menstrual bleeding, other times pressure on the bladder, causing frequent urination, or pressure on the rectum which causes rectal pressure. If the fibroids get very large, they can cause the abdomen (stomach area) to enlarge, making a woman look pregnant and causing them to be hindered when trying to accomplish daily tasks.
I’ve been living with large uterine fibroids for six years and have been able to reduce many of the symptoms that I’ve experienced by adjusting my lifestyle. Symptoms such as heavy menstrual periods, lower back pain, fatigue and constipation were some of the issues that I’ve dealt with and have been able to receive relief from by changing my diet and by increasing amounts of daily exercise.
I have found that a fiber rich diet containing plenty of whole grains, green leafy vegetables and lots of fruit, especially blueberries and cranberries, have been found to reduce many of the uterine fibroid symptoms, as has moderate exercise such as walking for at least 60 minutes per day.
In addition, during my research I came across an invaluable book, Fibroids Miracle, written by Amanda Leto which contains a wealth of resources about uterine fibroids, their causes and their treatment. In the book she discusses the importance of reducing the amount of carbohydrates ingested, reducing stress levels, conventional versus natural treatments, and how to manage symptoms. She also includes a helpful recipe booklet for maintaining a healthy diet that can contribute towards alleviating uterine fibroids.
There are many different factors that have been found to increase a woman’s risk of developing uterine fibroids and some of them are:
- Age. Fibroids become more common as women age, especially during the 30s and 40s through menopause. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink.
- Family history. Having a family member with fibroids increases your risk. If a woman’s mother had fibroids, her risk of having them is about three times higher than average.
- Ethnic origin. African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than other women.
- Obesity. Women who are overweight are at higher risk for fibroids. For very heavy women, the risk is two to three times greater than average.
- Eating habits. Eating a lot of red meat (e.g., beef) and ham is linked with a higher risk of fibroids. Eating plenty of green vegetables seems to protect women from developing fibroids.
There are also many different treatments that can be applied to uterine fibroids and some of them are also provided below:
Medications. If you have fibroids and have mild symptoms, your doctor may suggest taking medication. Over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used for mild pain. If you have heavy bleeding during your period, taking an iron supplement can keep you from getting anemia or correct it if you already are anemic.
Several drugs commonly used for birth control can be prescribed to help control symptoms of fibroids. Low-dose birth control pills do not make fibroids grow and can help control heavy bleeding. The same is true of progesterone-like injections. An IUD (intrauterine device) contains a small amount of progesterone-like medication, which can be used to control heavy bleeding as well as for birth control. Other drugs used to treat fibroids are “gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists” (GnRHa).
Surgery. If you have fibroids with moderate or severe symptoms, surgery may be the best way to treat them. Options are a Myomectomy (meye-oh-MEK-tuh-mee) – which is a surgery to remove fibroids without taking out the healthy tissue of the uterus and it is best for women who wish to have children after treatment for their fibroids or who wish to keep their uterus for other reasons. It can be a major surgery (involving cutting into the abdomen) or performed with laparoscopy or hysteroscopy. Another option is a Hysterectomy (hiss-tur-EK-tuh-mee) – which is a surgery to remove the uterus. This surgery is the only sure way to cure uterine fibroids. The type of surgery that can be done depends on the type, size, and location of the fibroids.
Additional surgery includes Endometrial Ablation (en-doh-MEE-tree-uhl uh-BLAY-shuhn) – where the lining of the uterus is removed or destroyed to control very heavy bleeding. Myolysis (meye-OL-uh-siss) – where a needle is inserted into the fibroids, usually guided by laparoscopy, and electric current or freezing is used to destroy the fibroids. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), or Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) – where a thin tube is thread into the blood vessels that supply blood to the fibroid then tiny, plastic or gel particles are injected into the blood vessels. This blocks the blood supply to the fibroid, causing it to shrink.
New Treatments. Radiofrequency ablation uses heat to destroy fibroid tissue without harming surrounding normal uterine tissue. The fibroids remain inside the uterus but shrink in size. Most women go home the same day and can return to normal activities within a few days. And Anti-hormonal drugs may provide symptom relief without bone-thinning side effects.
I hope that this article has been of benefit and may Allah Ta’aala facilitate our good health and the good health of our families, amin.