Somewhere around one-third of women in the United States have uterine fibroids, which are tumors composed of uterine muscle cells that can grow to large proportions. Although 99% of the time, fibroids are benign (noncancerous) they can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms and problems.
At Elite Gynecology, our expert gynecologists, Molly McBride, MD, and Tamara Guichard, MD, understand that getting a diagnosis of fibroids may be confusing and upsetting. They may recommend shrinking your fibroids with a noninvasive therapy called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).
As much as you might be dismayed over being diagnosed with fibroids, that diagnosis could explain some of the symptoms you’ve been suffering for awhile now. Following is a brief explanation of the two main types of fibroid symptoms — bleeding symptoms and bulk symptoms — and what you can do to reduce their impact.
When you have fibroids, your uterus has extra mass. Each month, your uterine lining engorges with blood as it prepares to accept and nourish a fertilized egg. But with fibroids, there’s more lining to engorge. The lining covers your fibroids, too.
A result of all the extra mass (and blood), is that you could have heavier-than-normal bleeding during your period. This symptom, called menorrhagia, can result in you changing your tampon and pad every hour or awakening frequently during the night to change your protection.
Menorrhagia can leave you feeling tired from lack of sleep and stressed from worry about leakage. Losing all that blood also puts you at risk for anemia, a condition in which you don’t have enough red blood cells. You may look pale, feel cooler than normal, and suffer from fatigue.
Another symptom fibroids can cause that’s related to bleeding is called polymenorrhagia. If you have polymenorrhagia, you bleed more than once in a 21-day cycle. That extra bleeding also puts you at risk for anemia.
The fibroids not only create more surface area for your uterine lining, they also create more weight and bulk in your uterus. In fact, if your fibroids are large enough, you could even appear pregnant because the fibroids distend your abdomen.
Other symptoms include:
- Pelvic pressure
- Heaviness and discomfort
- Urinary incontinence
- Urinary frequency
- Leg and back pain
- Pelvic pain
When your fibroids are bulky enough, they can even interfere with your becoming pregnant. Large fibroids also make it difficult for you to deliver a child vaginally. You may need to deliver via cesarean section instead.
Shrink your fibroids
Traditionally, fibroids have been treated surgically. Women who wish to preserve their fertility and whose fibroids are small enough opt for some variation of a myomectomy, in which their surgeon removes the fibroids from inside and outside the uterus.
Women whose fibroids are extremely large or women who don’t want to become pregnant may choose a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy removes the entire uterus. However, your cervix (the entrance to your uterus) may be preserved.
If you don’t want any type of surgery, there’s an alternative called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization. In this simple, in-office procedure, you stay awake but comfortable with local anesthetic and an intravenous (IV) sedative.
Using a catheter (hollow tube) and a very small incision, we inject biocompatible microspheres into the uterine artery that services your fibroids. Without a blood supply, the fibroids begin to shrink. We monitor the procedure using X-ray guidance on a magnified monitor.
Almost 90% of women who’ve had UFE experience complete or significant resolution of their symptoms. For most, the relief is long-lasting.
Not all women with fibroids are candidates for UFE. You may not have UFE if you’re pregnant. Since its effects on fertility are unknown, we don’t recommend UFE if you want to become pregnant, either.
Some medical conditions, including adenomyosis, may shorten the amount of relief you get with UFE. If you’re near menopause, however, it could still be an appropriate procedure to alleviate symptoms until the days when your fibroids naturally shrink due to age-related declines in hormones.
If you’re interested in debulking your fibroids and eliminating pain and excessive bleeding, contact our team at the office nearest you — in Murray Hill (Midtown East) in Manhattan, New York City or in Forest Hills, New York. You can phone us or click the button to request an appointment.