Uterine fibroids are abnormal fibrous growths that develop on the inside of the uterus, on its outer surface, in the uterine wall, or even in the muscular tissue of the uterus. Uterine fibroids are generally benign in nature, and they rarely turn into something serious like uterine cancer or cancer in general.
Almost 80 per cent of all women that are of childbearing age suffer from it at some point in their lives. Uterine fibroids are of different kinds such as Intramural fibroids, Subserosal fibroids, Pedunculated fibroids, and Submucosal fibroids.
Uterine fibroids greatly vary in size; in some cases, they are so small that they are not even visible to the naked eyes while, in some cases, they grow really big, so much so that they even manage to deform the uterus. Just like the size, they also vary in number; some women develop just a single fibroid, while for some, it may be more than one.
Uterine fibroids also seem to grow at different speeds; some grow very fast while others grow really slowly. And there are cases where they remain the same size for a long time. Generally, no symptoms are experienced, and a woman might not even be aware that they have them due to some of these signs that are common to other reproductive health issues; only through a pelvic exam is it detected. Although uterine fibroids do not cause any symptoms, they do cause discomfort in the form of heavier than usual menstrual periods, severe pain, longer periods, lower back pain, and bloating in the pelvic region to name a few.
Health experts have still not found the reason uterine fibroids occur in the first place; however, it has been seen that the female hormones, namely estrogen, and progesterone, are the ones to be blamed.
Estrogen and progesterone help in producing an egg each month and also causes the lining of the uterus to become thick to prepare the body for a possible pregnancy. If the egg is fertilized, it turns into a fetus and attaches itself to the thickened lining, but if it doesn’t, the lining sheds and is expelled from the body in the form of a period. Estrogen and progesterone have been seen to have a significant role in the development of fibroids.
Due to the elevated amounts of these hormones in the body, pregnant women are mostly like to get them; however, they disappear after delivery. Women that are suffering from fibroids and are going through menopause or are in the post-menopausal phase in them the size of the fibroids have been seen to shrink and disappear over time due to the low amounts of estrogen and progesterone in the body.
5 Menstrual Disorders Related to Uterine Fibroids:
Uterine fibroids are harmless in nature, but they do seem to disrupt the normal menstrual cycle and cause some disturbances in the way they function. Below are some menstrual disorders related to uterine fibroids.
Amenorrhea is referred to as the lack of periods for a time period of up to 3 months and more, also known as secondary. It is also referred to when someone fails to menstruate after 16 years, also known as primary Amenorrhea.
There are various reasons why it happens, for instance, being pregnant, going through menopause, breastfeeding, using contraceptives, including certain medications, stress, extreme weight loss, over-exercising, and imbalance in the hormones or an abnormality in the reproductive system. Amenorrhea can cause difficulty in getting pregnant, depending on its underlying cause. The treatment methods include surgery and medications. Its symptoms are:
- a milky white discharge from the nipples
- loss of hair
- hirsutism or excessive hair
- pain in the pelvic region
- changes in vision
Abnormal Uterine Bleeding (AUB)
Abnormal uterine bleeding or Menorrhagia is a condition in which a woman experiences very heavy and prolonged menstrual periods. During the course of a normal menstrual period, a woman loses around 70 ml of blood in total. If a woman is losing more amount of blood than that or is having prolonged periods, this condition can be termed as Menorrhagia.
The heavy bleeding also causes anaemia in some cases. Its treatment includes prescription of medicines like ibuprofen and oral contraceptives. In some cases, surgery is also performed in which case either the lining of the uterus or the uterus itself is removed. The symptoms of Menorrhagia are:
- bleeding heavily and so having to change pads or tampons every hour
- periods that last for over a week
- the appearance of clots that are bigger than the size of a quarter
Dysmenorrhea is also referred to as painful periods, which is experiencing severe pain before and throughout periods. The level of pain ranges from mild, dull, to throbbing, sharp, which occurs in the pelvic area, the lower back, and the thighs. In some cases, it also causes diarrhoea and nausea.
Dysmenorrhea is divided into two types primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is caused solely due to menstrual periods. In contrast, secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by other conditions like uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, polyps, infection in the pelvic area, or issues related to the other parts of the reproductive organs like cervix, uterus and the vagina. The symptoms of dysmenorrhea are:
- severe pain in the abdominal area
- bloating in the pelvic region
- the ache in the lower back region, the pelvic area, and the thighs
- stomach pain
- nausea and diarrhoea
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual Syndrome are behavioral, emotional, and physical changes that some women experience a week or two before their periods start. For most, it causes nothing but some minor changes like tender breasts, craving for junk food, etc. but for some, the symptoms may be severe enough to mess up their day to day life. The various symptoms of premenstrual syndrome are:
- memory loss
- difficulty in concentrating
- bloating in the abdominal area
- tender feeling in the breasts
- increased hunger
- pain in muscles
- inflammation in hands and feet
- weight gain
- diarrhoea or constipation
- feeling anxious
- isolating oneself
- feeling overwhelmed
Most premenstrual syndrome symptoms are curable with the help of a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, daily exercising for half an hour, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and smoking. Other than that, those who experience mildly painful periods can take certain medications like ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, etc. for some relief. Those who suffer from severe pain during periods can consult doctors who will prescribe them with birth control pills to make menstrual periods lighter and less painful.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is just like PMS, but it has very severe symptoms. Just like PMS premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) also occurs a week or two before the start of periods and are caused due to the lowered levels of hormones in the body. It affects almost 5 per cent of women that are of reproductive age. Although the exact cause of the premenstrual dysphoric disorder is unknown, it seems like hormones play a big role in its occurrence. In addition to hormones, the change in the serotonin levels- a brain chemical also seems to be a cause. The symptoms of the premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) are:
anger and irritability that affects others around them
- extreme anxiety
- great despair and suicidal thoughts
- trouble in focusing on things
- low energy
- heightened cravings
- pain in the joints and muscles
- low sex drive
- allergies and infections