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Signs and Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids

Author:   Peter Sedesse MD

General information about fibroids

Fibroids are growths that occur in the uterus, normally in women over the age of 25.  The growths are normally harmless tumors and are not cancer.  Fibroids are extremely common and appear in about 50% of women.  The fibroid growths range from the size of a fingertip, and some reach the size of a fist. The location, size and blood supply going to the fibroid all determine the type of symptoms and the severity of symptoms the woman will experience.  In most cases fibroids will stop growing on their own.  Treatment for fibroids is usually not necessary unless symptoms become intolerable.

Excessive blood loss is the most serious sign of a fibroid

The most common, and possibly dangerous sign or symptom of fibroids is excessive bleeding during the woman´s period.  Often menstruation is extended in length and also in the amount of blood that is lost each day.  The amount of blood lost can quickly cause the woman to develop anemia as the body is not able to create red blood cells quickly enough to replace the blood lost each month.  The anemia from blood loss to fibroids can lead to weakness, dizziness and headaches and treatment for the fibroids will be required.  Any woman with fibroids or even women without fibroids who have heavy or extended periods should always be aware of the symptoms of anemia and make sure to adjust their diets accordingly.

Pelvic discomfort from fibroids

Probably the most common symptoms of fibroids is a non-specific discomfort in the pelvic region.  The discomfort can range from a feeling that is barely noticeable up to the point where certain movements or positions are uncomfortable.  Some women feel discomfort when laying on their belly or when bending over.  The usually occurrence does not reach the threshold of being considered pain. 

Bladder symptoms as a result of uterine fibroids

Depending on the size and placement of the fibroid or fibroids within the uterus, they can cause symptoms to appear involving the bladder.  The most common urinary symptom of fibroids is frequent urination.  As the fibroid grows, it presses on the bladder which triggers signals to the brain telling you it is time to urinate.  Often times despite the feeling of needing to urinate, there is no urine to be relieved.  This occurs frequently at night depending on the sleeping position of the woman, which may cause the fibroid to press more on the bladder than normal.  Treatments, including surgery, are often necessary to alleviate this symptom.  The same mechanism can occur against the rectum and produce the sensation that a bowel movement is needed.

Pain can occur from fibroids

Pain is an uncommon symptom of fibroids but can present itself in a few different ways.  As mentioned earlier, fibroids usually produce an uncomfortable feeling in the pelvis, but in some cases actual pain can occur.  Pain present in the pelvis is usually very specific to the area of the fibroid.  The strength of the pain usually intensifies at certain points during a woman´s period.  Pain also can occur in the lower back depending on the position of the fibroid.  There are nerves that run along the back of the uterus that can be irritated by the growth.  Finally, some women experience pain during intercourse from a fibroid.  Usually this is dependent on the sexual position and the location of the fibroid in the uterus. 

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