Uterine fibroids, benign tumors that grow inside or on the muscular walls of the uterus, are common. In fact, about 80 percent of women develop uterine fibroids before age 50. Some people with fibroids may experience no severe symptoms; however, others with larger fibroids may struggle with intense pain or bleeding. Everyone has a unique experience with fibroids; therefore, it’s important to get checked if you think you may have them.
While everyday symptoms of fibroids can include pelvic pressure or heavy periods, fibroids occasionally cause acute pelvic pain, which can be a result of a process known as fibroid degeneration.
What is a Degenerating Fibroid?
To understand what causes a degenerating fibroid, you first need to know a little about how fibroids grow. They’re non-cancerous tumors that grow in the uterus and expand in response to increased estrogen levels. Fibroids are made up of living cells and require oxygen and other nutrients in the blood to live. They receive the nutrients they need through a uterine artery and attached blood vessels.
A fibroid starts to degenerate when it stops receiving enough nutrients from its blood supply. This situation can happen after a period of accelerated growth or as a result of a twisted stalk or a change in the uterus that has blocked the fibroid’s blood supply, which can occur during pregnancy. Without nutrients, the cells die off until the tumor is a more sustainable size. This cell death and the chemicals released in the process are what cause pain during fibroid degeneration.
What Are the Symptoms of Fibroid Degeneration?
Though fibroid degeneration occurs naturally and rarely leads to health complications, it can certainly cause discomfort and other concerns if not treated. The good news is that when you recognize the symptoms, you can seek help from a medical professional. If you think you have uterine fibroids, watch for the following symptoms of degeneration:
- Acute pain: The most common symptom of a degenerating fibroid is acute pelvic pain focused on the site of the fibroid. You may experience it as a sharp pain in the abdomen accompanied by swelling. This symptom can last from a few days to a few weeks.
- Chronic pain: People with fibroids sometimes experience less severe, lasting pelvic pain as a result of fibroid degeneration. Though this symptom may seem less significant, don’t ignore it — treatment for fibroids could significantly improve your comfort and quality of life.
- Fever: When fibroid degeneration occurs during pregnancy, it’s often accompanied by a mild fever. If you have a fever and don’t know the cause, seek advice from a trusted medical professional.
- Bleeding: In rare cases, a degenerating fibroid may cause severe bleeding. You should seek immediate care for abnormally heavy bleeding, even if it occurs during your period.
How Can You Treat Fibroid Degeneration?
Symptoms of fibroid degeneration can be difficult to manage. Thankfully, treatment can keep pain under control and help you live a more fulfilling life.
In the short term, you can manage a degenerating fibroid by taking an NSAID medication, such as ibuprofen. However, you should notify your primary physician or fibroid specialist if your symptoms begin to worsen or you notice significant changes.
In the long term, you should consider seeking treatment for uterine fibroids. A non-surgical procedure like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) can shrink current fibroids and prevent them from recurring, which could help keep fibroid degeneration from happening in the future. At USA Fibroid Centers, our specialists want to help you find the treatment you need to feel better.