Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop in or around the womb (uterus) in women. Learn more about the condition, its diagnosis and the different treatment options available.
Fibroids (also called uterine myomas or leiomyomas) are benign growths of uterine muscle and fibrous tissue, whose development is influenced by sex hormones, in particular oestrogen. Fibroids usually develop during a woman’s reproductive years, from around 16 to 50 years of age, with a peak from 30-50. They are common, with around 1 in 3 women developing them at some point in their life.
Size varies from the size of a pea to bulky tumors the size of a melon that can take over the entire womb.
The main types of fibroids are:
- intramural fibroids – the most common type of fibroid, which develop in the muscle wall of the womb
- subserosal fibroids – fibroids that develop outside the wall of the womb into the pelvis and can become very large
- submucosal fibroids – fibroids that develop in the muscle layer beneath the womb’s inner lining and grow into the cavity of the womb
Symptoms Many women are unaware that they have fibroids as they have no symptoms.
When symptoms are present, they include:
- heavy periods, which may cause anaemia, or painful periods
- abdominal pain
- pain or discomfort during sex
- lower back pain,
- frequent urination.
What causes fibroids ?
While the exact causes of fibroids are unknown, it is clear that hormones are responsible for their growth. The growth of these fibroids is closely associated with oestrogen levels (the female reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries). They tend to shrink when oestrogen levels are low, such as after the menopause. Known risk factors include1:
- heredity: women with a family history of fibroids have a higher risk of developing them.ethnicity: Afro-Caribbean women are three times more likely to have fibroidsthan Caucasian women;
- weight: the incidence is higher in overweight and obese women as being overweight increases the level of oestrogen in the body;
- pregnancy women who have had children have a lower risk of developing fibroids, with the risk decreasing further with successive pregnancies.
Fibroids are common, with around 1 in 3 women developing them at some point in their life.
1 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fibroids/#who- gets-fibroids Last accessed 28/12/2017
NHS Choices website – Fibroids http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fibroids/Pages/Introduction.aspx Last accessed 18/07/2017