What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids are abnormal growths that develop in or on a woman’s uterus. Sometimes, these tumors become quite large and cause severe abdominal pain and heavy periods. In other cases, they cause no signs or symptoms at all. The growths are typically benign (non-cancerous). The cause of fibroids is unknown.
In this article, we will be looking at the risk factors and 10 warning signs that you may have fibroids. Such signs are usually ignored by women.
Age: age is an important risk factor. In Africans, fibroids may develop at a much younger age and symptoms may be seen in these women in their early twenties. However, most fibroids shrink after menopause.
Nulliparity: women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of developing uterine fibroids.
Family history: fibroids tend to run in families and women with their mothers or first-degree relatives who had fibroids are more likely to develop uterine fibroids than women with no such history.
Race: fibroid is more common in African women than in Asians and Caucasians.
Obesity: women who are obese have a higher risk of developing uterine fibroids
Having looked at the risk factors of fibroids, let’s now look at the warning signs which indicates its possibilities..
1. Heavy vaginal bleeding
Most women suffering from fibroid usually have heavy vaginal bleeding which may be related to menstruation or occur before the onset of the next menses (Intermenstrual bleeding). In fact, it is one of the most troubling sign of fibroid which can interfere significantly with quality of life. If your menstruation is excessively heavy or prolonged and it comes out with blood clots and you are using more sanitary pads than usual, then it is advisable to consult your physician who will evaluate you adequately. Heavy vaginal bleeding is an important cause of anemia in women because of blood loss and iron depletion. Symptoms of anemia include; pallor, generalized body weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath.
In this part of the world, nothing strains marriage like infertility. Although the role of fibroid and infertility is controversial numerous researches and clinical evidences have shown that fibroids are a leading cause of infertility. Fibroids can obstruct the passage of the fertilized egg from the fallopian tubes into the uterus where implantation occurs and also distorts the normal anatomy of the uterus. If you have been married and having frequent unprotected sexual intercourse with your husband without any pregnancy, you should be evaluated for uterine fibroids.
3. Recurrent Miscarriages
Miscarriages also known as spontaneous pregnancy loss occurs frequently in women with fibroid. Fibroids in the uterine cavity occupy space meant for the developing fetus. It affects the growth of the fetus and may induce miscarriage. Several conditions can cause recurrent miscarriages, but it is a sign that you may be having a fibroid.
4. Lower Abdominal Swelling/ Mass
I have heard women complaining of swelling/ mass located in the lower part of their abdomen. Some women have mistaken such swelling for a growing baby. Funny enough, such growth never results in pregnancy and may persist for years. Only large fibroids present as an abdominal mass. Any abdominal swelling/ mass are abnormal and you must consult your physician without any delay.
5. Frequent and Painful urination
The uterus and the bladder lie in close proximity and the presence of fibroids in the uterus often irritates the bladder prompting painful and frequent urination. This symptom is commonly attributed to urinary tract infection (UTI) with antibiotics as the first line of treatment. However, if you have been treated repeatedly with antibiotics without any improvement in symptoms, then further evaluation is needed as fibroids can also cause such discomforting symptoms.
This may sound untrue, but many women with trivial complaint of recurrent constipation despite adequate treatment are later diagnosed with fibroid after extensive evaluation and investigation. Large fibroids in the womb may compress on the rectum causing constipation.
7. Abdominal/ Low back pains
Abdominal and low back pain is a usual but important key sign that you may have fibroid. It is usually described as a dull aching pain that may be persistent in nature. Pain is a significant symptom caused by the compression of nerves and organs by the fibroids. Severe abdominal pain can also occur when the size of the fibroid exceeds in blood supply leading to degeneration of the fibroid.
8. Swelling of the legs
Although a rare sign of fibroids, swelling of the legs is caused by the compression of the lymphatic vessels that drains the legs. When this occurs, lymph accumulates in the tissues of the legs causing edema. It is usually accompanied by pain from the distension of the tissues of the legs.
9. Varicose veins
Varicose veins may also be a sign that you have fibroid. This is the distension of the superficial veins of the legs caused by the compression of pelvic veins by uterine fibroids.
10. Painful sexual intercourse
Sex should be pleasurable to the woman, but the presence of uterine fibroid can make sex painful and discomforting. Large fibroids located in the lower segment of the uterus may impede sexual intercourse from severe lower abdominal pain. Women suffering from protracted painful sexual intercourse should have an abdominal ultrasound scan to ascertain the presence of uterine fibroids.
Women with fibroids can present with different symptoms, but proper diagnosis is only possible after an evaluation by the doctor. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, then it is important that you consult your physician.