Table of Contents:
- How do you know if you have Fibroids?
- How do you get Fibroids?
- Fibroid belly bulge
- Fibroids similar to other health conditions
- Diagnosis and how to tell if you have Fibroids
- Determine if you have fibroids, contact us
How Do You Know if You Have Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or on the uterus. They are surprisingly common; up to 80% of women develop them by the age of 50. If you are wondering how do you know if you have fibroids, you may want to be on the lookout for the following painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient symptoms.
Uterine fibroid symptoms include:
- Heavy and prolonged menstruation between or during your periods
- Anemia, which can lead to fatigue
- Pain during intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Constipation and/or bloating
- Pain in your pelvis or lower back
- Increased menstrual cramping
- Stomach swelling
How to tell if you have fibroids? Although many women with fibroids do not experience any symptoms at all, others are severely impacted. For instance, heavy periods, intense cramps, and anemia-induced fatigue can cause you to miss work, cancel social engagements, and avoid intimate encounters. Like frequent urination and digestive issues, other symptoms can result in the desire to stay close to home.
Uterine fibroids can also impact your mental health. Visible symptoms like stomach swelling or bleeding through clothing can lead to embarrassing situations and self-esteem issues. When combined, all of your symptoms may add up to feelings of sadness, and depression.
If this sounds all too familiar, you may indeed have uterine fibroids. That said, you should be aware that some fibroid symptoms overlap with those of other reproductive tract conditions. That’s why it is essential to receive an accurate medical diagnosis. Your symptoms may be signs of a more severe or even life-threatening health issue in rare cases.
Below, we discuss the causes behind fibroids, ways to diagnose fibroids, and who to turn to when you need fibroid treatment to improve your quality of life.
How Do You Get Fibroids?
Many patients wonder how and why they developed fibroids in the first place. Although this is not entirely understood, researchers believe that genetics, hormones, lifestyle influences, and other factors are involved.
You are generally considered at increased risk for developing fibroids if you are a woman of childbearing age. If you have a close family member with fibroids, you are also more likely to get them. Women who began menstruation at an early age are more likely to be affected. Additionally, women of African-American descent are disproportionately impacted by both fibroid development and symptom severity.
Lifestyle factors that can potentially influence fibroid growth include:
- Frequently eating red meat
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
- Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
- Not drinking enough water
Underlying health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and vitamin D deficiency may also play a role.
Causes of Fibroids
In addition to the above risk factors, several potential causes of fibroids have been identified. These include:
- Genetic changes
- Hormones like estrogen and progesterone
- Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF)
- A substance called Extracellular Matrix (ECM)
Fibroid Belly Bulge
Fibroids are often initially detected by touch during a routine pelvic exam. Depending on a fibroid’s size and location, it can distort your uterus’ shape and/or cause it to expand in size causing fibroid belly bulge.
Although you probably won’t be able to identify the fibroid’s exact location on your own, you may be able to feel a misshapen or swollen uterus externally, which is one way to answer “How do you know if you have fibroids?” An enlarged uterus can affect daily movements like bending over or getting out of bed. You may also notice that your clothing fits differently as your fibroids grow feeling like you have a belly bulge.
Fibroids Similar to Other Health Conditions
Fibroids can be hard to diagnose because their symptoms are similar to other reproductive system conditions. Heavy bleeding, prolonged periods, and severe menstrual cramps can be indicative of several different health issues.
PCOS and Fibroids
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one condition that can have symptoms similar to fibroids. PCOS can begin after puberty or later on and often causes irregular periods. It can also cause weight gain, which may be a problem that leads to an enlarged uterus. However, these two conditions aren’t related. Fibroids are growths that form on or inside the uterus while PCOS is made up of cysts on the ovaries. PCOS can be controlled by medication.
Menorrhagia is another condition that can have symptoms similar to fibroids. Menorrhagia is classified as menstrual bleeding which lasts for more than seven days or is extremely heavy. This condition is actually a symptom of fibroids because the growth can cause periodslonger than normal and heavy bleeding.
Menorrhagia can also indicate other medical conditions, which is why diagnosis is important to determine the underlying cause. It can occur anytime after puberty until menopause, which is also true of fibroids.
Diagnosis and How to Tell if You Have Fibroids
You may still be wondering, How do you know if you have fibroids? Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to consult a medical professional. As mentioned above, a fibroid specialist will likely perform a pelvic examination to detect uterine fibroids. They will also ask about your symptoms, so we suggest documenting your periods, cramps, and other symptoms beforehand.
When fibroids are suspected, your specialist will likely order medical imaging, such as an ultrasound or MRI exam. If fibroids are diagnosed based on the imaging, these exams can also provide accurate information on fibroid size, location, and the number of growths. At this point, you can begin to explore your treatment options.
An ultrasound is usually the first kind of imaging test your doctor will order,, especially if they suspect you have ibroids. If your doctor detects an issue with your uterus in a pelvic exam,an ultrasound might be orderedo confirm their diagnosis. It may be the only imaging test needed before the focus turns to treatment.
An ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the uterus and confirm the presence of fibroids. It can measure them and find their location. The doctor moves the device over your abdomen to get images of the uterus. If needed, a transvaginal ultrasound can be done that provides a more detailed visual of your organs and the soft tissue inside your pelvic cavity than an abdominal ultrasound.Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Sometimes, more information is needed, which is when the doctor will order an MRI. When they look at an MRI, the doctor can see how many fibroids are present, their size, and the location to better determine a treatment plan.
The doctor may recommend an MRI if the uterus is larger or if you are getting close to menopause. It provides more detail than an ultrasound.
A hysterosonography is also known as a saline infusion sonogram. Sterile salt water expands the uterus to get images of submucosal fibroids and the uterine lining. This procedure is often used for women who experience heavy bleeding or if they are trying to become pregnant.
This procedure requires using a dye to highlight the uterus and fallopian tubes on an X-ray. The doctor will be able to see if fibroids are blocking your fallopian tubes, causing you to have issues with infertility. A hysterosalpingography can also show some submucosal fibroids, which are fibroids growing in the muscles of the uterine wall.
Determine If You Have Fibroids, Contact Us
If you are experiencing issues like heavy periods and severe cramps that impact your daily activities, it is probably time to figure out what’s going on. If you believe you may have symptoms of fibroids, we recommend visiting a fibroid specialist to explore your full range of treatment options.
Although many individuals think that having a hysterectomy –– the complete surgical removal of the uterus –– is their only available treatment, that isn’t true. A nonsurgical option exists that can alleviate your fibroid pain and discomfort.
At USA Fibroid Centers, we specialize in performing a minimally-invasive outpatient alternative called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). UFE can resolve your symptoms, leave your uterus intact, and quickly return you to normal daily activities. It does not require a hospital stay, and most women fully recover within one to two weeks.
When you are ready to take your first step towards recovery, we encourage you to schedule an initial consultation with one of our world-class experts. For your safety and convenience, we offer in-person or telemedicine visits. We look forward to helping you take control of your health!