Leiomyomas, myomas or uterine fibroids are common in women above 30, especially those who have never been pregnant.
They are also known as fibroids, but this is a misleading term because myomas are made of muscle cells and not fibrous tissue.
As many as three out of four women have uterine fibroids, but most are unaware of them because they often cause no symptoms. Your doctor may discover them incidentally during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Although their exact cause is unknown, myomas appear to be influenced by the female hormone estrogen which is made in the ovaries, and the human growth hormone. These smooth muscle tumors shrink or disappear after menopause following a decrease in the body's estrogen production.
Myomas Symptoms include:
A heavy feeling in the abdomen
Menorrhagia (excessive bleeding during menstruation)
Dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
Dyspareunia (difficult or painful intercourse).
While myomas are often benign, they can cause trouble depending on their size, location and the patient's general health.
In general, uterine fibroids cause no problems and seldom require treatment. Medical therapy and surgical procedures can shrink or remove fibroids if you have discomfort or troublesome symptoms. Rarely, fibroids can require emergency treatment if they cause sudden, sharp pelvic pain, said the Mayo Clinic. However, if they are near the cervix, fibroids can make childbirth difficult and lead to hemorrhage or abortion. If they block the Fallopian tube, they can cause sterility.
A doctor's advice is needed to determine whether you can safely get pregnant if you have a uterine myoma. Small tumors can easily be removed, but large ones may require hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus). In the latter, pregnancy is impossible.
Research indicates that pregnant women with fibroids are at slightly increased risk of miscarriage, premature labor and delivery, abnormal fetal position, and separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. But not all studies confirm these associations. Furthermore, complications vary based on the number, size and location of fibroids. Multiple fibroids and large submucosal fibroids that distort the uterine cavity are the type most likely to cause problems. A more common complication of fibroids in pregnancy is localized pain, typically between the first and second trimesters. This is usually easily treated with pain relievers, warned the Mayo Clinic.
To monitor tumor growth, a woman should have a pelvic examination every six to 12 months even though she doesn't have symptoms of the disease.
A woman whose uterus is as big as a six-month normal uterus by the 16th week of pregnancy can usually get along without surgery. However, if the myoma grows to the size of a five-month uterus by the ninth week of pregnancy, fetal growth is affected and spontaneous abortion may occur.
Tumors which press against the Fallopian tube may cause ectopic pregnancy. But most myomas don't cause any trouble except the enlargement of the uterus. Consult a doctor about this.
Early research suggests that athletic women have a lower risk of fibroids but this has not been confirmed by other studies. Nevertheless, the benefits of exercise are well documented and it can ease backaches, tone muscles, and help pregnant women sleep better.
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