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Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas or myomas, are noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus. They are the most common type of benign tumor in women of reproductive age. Fibroids can vary in size, ranging from as small as a pea to as large as a grapefruit or even larger.
Fibroids are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue that grow within and around the wall of the uterus. They can develop anywhere within the uterus, including the inner lining (submucosal), the muscle layer (intramural), and the outer lining (subserosal).
Fibroids are more common in women who are in their 30s, 40s, and early 50s. Women who are obese or who have a family history of fibroids are also at a higher risk of developing them. Ethnicity may also play a role, with African American women being more likely to develop fibroids than women of other ethnicities.
While many women with fibroids may not experience any symptoms, some may experience heavy or prolonged menstrual periods, pelvic pain or pressure, frequent urination, constipation, or infertility. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on the size, number, and location of the fibroids.
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown, but it is believed that they develop from a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. Estrogen and progesterone, hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle, are thought to promote the growth of fibroids.
Diagnosis of fibroids may involve a pelvic exam, ultrasound, MRI, or hysteroscopy (a procedure in which a small camera is inserted into the uterus). In some cases, a biopsy may be done to rule out cancer.
Treatment options for fibroids depend on several factors, including the size, number, and location of the fibroids, as well as the severity of symptoms and the woman’s desire for future fertility. Treatment options include medications to manage symptoms, minimally invasive procedures to remove the fibroids, or surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) or just the fibroids (myomectomy).
Overall, while uterine fibroids can be a source of discomfort and inconvenience for many women, they are not typically life-threatening and can be managed effectively with the help of healthcare providers.
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