uterine fibroids, risks, symptoms, signs, treatments, women's health, Northwest Arkansas, Women's clinicWho is at risk for uterine fibroids? Keep reading to find out all you need to know.

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are growths made up of the muscle and connective tissue from the uterus wall. Fibroids can grow as a single (one growth) or in a cluster. They can vary in size, number, and location within and on your uterus. Uterine fibroids aren’t associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and seldom develop into cancer.

Who Can Get Fibroids?

Most fibroids happen in women of reproductive age. They typically are not seen in young women who haven’t had their first period yet.

What Causes Fibroids?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of uterine fibroids, but research and clinical experience point to these factors:

Genetic changes: Many fibroids contain changes in genes that differ from those in typical uterine muscle cells.

Hormones: Estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that stimulate the uterine lining development during each menstrual cycle, appear to promote the growth of fibroids.

Other growth factors: Substances that help the body maintain tissues may affect fibroid growth.

Extracellular matrix (ECM): Extracellular matrix is the material that makes cells stick together. Fibroids have an increased ECM that makes them fibrous. ECM also stores growth factors and causes biological changes in the cells themselves.

Doctors believe that uterine fibroids develop from a stem cell in the smooth muscular tissue of the uterus (myometrium). A single cell repeatedly divides, eventually creating a firm, rubbery mass distinct from nearby tissue.

What are the symptoms?

Many women who have fibroids don’t have any symptoms. In women who do, the most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Menstrual periods lasting more than a week
  • Pelvic pressure or pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder
  • Constipation
  • Backache or leg pains
  • Chronic vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex

Who Is at Risk for Uterine Fibroids?

Several risk factors can play a role in your chances of developing fibroids. These may include:

  • Obesity
  • Not having children
  • Early-onset of menstruation
  • Late age for menopause
  • Race
  • Family history of fibroids

When To See a Doctor

Make plans to see your doctor if you have:

  • Pelvic pain that doesn’t go away
  • Overly heavy, prolonged, or painful periods
  • Spotting or bleeding between periods
  • Difficulty emptying your bladder
  • Unexplained low red blood cell count (anemia)

Seek prompt medical care if you have severe vaginal bleeding or sudden sharp pelvic pain.

If you have questions or concerns about your risk for uterine fibroids or another women’s health concern, contact us to schedule an appointment or call our office at 479.582.9268.