What Are Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids (also called uterine leiomyomas or myomas) are noncancerous tumors that form in the muscle of the uterus. Fibroids can form inside or outside of the uterus.
Fibroids are extremely common and about 80% of women will develop fibroids in their lifetime.
What Are Symptoms of Fibroids?
Fibroids may not cause any symptoms. When fibroids do cause symptoms, they may include:
What Causes Fibroids?
The cause of fibroids is unknown.
Fibroid development may be associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. When estrogen levels are high, fibroids tend to grow, and when estrogen levels are low, fibroids may shrink.
Other factors that may influence the development of fibroids include:
How Are Fibroids Diagnosed?
Fibroids may be suspected if a doctor determines the uterus is enlarged or has an irregular shape. Many women don’t know they have uterine fibroids because they have no symptoms.
Tests used to confirm fibroids or to rule out other conditions include:
What Is the Treatment for Fibroids?
If fibroids do not cause symptoms, no treatment is needed. Fibroids may go away on their own if estrogen levels in the body decrease. This typically happens during menopause, but may also occur when taking certain medications, such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists or antagonists.
For those who have problematic symptoms, treatment for fibroids includes medications or surgery.
Medications used to treat fibroids include:
- Iron and vitamins for women who are anemic due to heavy periods
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve Naprosyn) for menstrual cramps
- Hormonal birth control including pills, skin patches, vaginal rings, shots, hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), and implants to reduce bleeding, cramps, and pain during menstrual periods and to correct anemia
- Antifibrinolytic medicines such as tranexamic acid (Lysteda) to help slow menstrual bleeding quickly
- Progesterone receptor modulators to stop heavy menstrual bleeding and cause some fibroid shrinkage
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues to cause the ovaries to temporarily stop producing estrogen and progesterone and reduce heavy menstrual bleeding
Types of surgery used to treat fibroids include: