Uterine Fibroids

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths on the uterus. They are fairly common amongst women of childbearing age—about 30% of women above the age of 35 will have uterine fibroids.

Uterine fibroids, also called myomas or leiomyomas, are composed of muscle and fibrous tissue. They come in different sizes, ranging from the size of a seedling to a bulky mass. Large fibroids can cause the abdomen to distend. When this happens, the fibroids can press on organs, resulting in increased pelvic pressure, frequent urge to urinate and difficulty passing motion. They can also cause heavy prolong menstrual bleeding. Fibroids can also contribute to infertility along with pregnancy and childbirth complications.

However, the risk of the fibroid being cancerous remains low and for the majority of women, it does not cause any symptoms nor affect daily activities.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?

As uterine fibroids vary in size and numbers, women who display signs and symptoms often experience the following problems:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
    The growth of uterine fibroids distorts the uterine cavity and endometrium (lining of the uterus) resulting in longer and heavier menstrual bleeding.
  • Abdominal cramps or discomfort
    As fibroids enlarge, they increase the surface area of the uterine lining, which can result in cramps during periods or discomfort in their lower abdomen and pelvis.
  • Menstrual period lasting for more than a week
    Fibroids may distort the uterine cavity resulting in prolong menstrual bleeding and even spotting between periods.
  • Frequent urination
    As the fibroids grow, the uterus also expands. When this happens, the enlarged uterus presses onto the bladder resulting in frequent urination.
  • Backache and leg pain
    Some fibroids may protrude out from the uterus compressing the lower back near the spinal column. When fibroids increase in size, they can press onto nerves located along the spine, causing pain. Similarly, fibroids can also constrict the nerves and blood vessels that extend down to the legs, which may also result in pain and discomfort.
  • Constipation and bloated stomach
    When fibroids enlarge and protrude out posteriorly against the colon, faecal bowel movements can be obstructed resulting in bloating or constipation.

What Causes Uterine Fibroids?

Although the exact cause of uterine fibroids is not fully understood, the following have been found to be possible factors contributing to the development of fibroids:

  • Hormones
    Oestrogen and progesterone, the hormones that thicken the lining of the uterus during menstruation, may promote the growth of fibroids.
  • Genetics
    Fibroids may be hereditary. Women with a family history of uterine fibroids are more likely to develop them.
  • Other Growth Factors
    Substances that help maintain tissues, such as insulin-like growth factors, may stimulate fibroid growth.
  • Extracellular Matrix (ECM)
    ECM makes cells stick together. Fibroids have increased ECM making them fibrous. Aside from that, ECM stores growth factors and may cause the cells to change.

What are the Treatments for Uterine Fibroids?

If you experience any of the above symptoms, we advise you to seek treatment. Options at our gynaecology clinic include observation, medication or surgery.

FAQs on Uterine Fibroids