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In the United States, an estimated 26 million women between the ages of 15 and 50 have uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are benign tumors located within the uterine walls or cavity. Since fibroids don’t always cause symptoms, many women are unaware of their presence.
For others, uterine fibroids can cause a decreased quality of life. Common symptoms include heavy bleeding, periods lasting more than ten days, bleeding between cycles, pain during intercourse, fatigue from anemia, severe pelvic pain, and abdominal swelling.
Some women also experience problems involving the bladder and bowels, such as frequent urination or constipation. Below, we discuss fibroids and constipation, along with fibroids and bladder issues. For additional information, we recommend consulting a fibroid specialist.
Can Uterine Fibroids Cause Digestive Problems?
Fibroids cause many symptoms, including digestive issues, bloating, and constipation, depending on how large the fibroids get and their location. They may press on the bowels, colon, and intestines, putting pressure on organs. When you experience constipation and bloating, you may find it difficult to get your food to digest properly.
How Does it Feel to have a Fibroid Pressing on the Bladder or Bowel?
For many reasons, having fibroids pressing on the bowel or bladder can be uncomfortable. For instance, you may need to strain to have bowel movements, leading to the development of hemorrhoids. Or, you may struggle to empty your bladder, which can leave you constantly feeling the urge to urinate.
Along with causing physical discomfort, fibroids involving the bowel or bladder can lead to inconvenient situations. Due to frequent urination or constipation, you may prefer to remain at home so that you can have easy or private access to a bathroom. Some individuals avoid intimate situations out of fear of having an accident.
Over time, fibroid bladder and bowel issues can begin to impact your career, social life, and relationships. When this occurs, we usually recommend treatment.
Fibroids and Constipation
As mentioned above, fibroids can cause constipation for some individuals. This is because the uterus lies directly in front of the distal end (last section) of the colon, which controls bowel movements.
Fibroids that develop in the back of the uterus can press on the colon from the outside, which can lead to significant constipation. “If a fibroid is subserosal, meaning it is located on the outside of the uterus, it can put pressure on the rectum, resulting in constipation,” says Dr. Jacob White, a fibroid specialist with years of experience performing minimally invasive fibroid treatment.
In addition, some women that have fibroids causing heavy menstrual bleeding can become anemic, which may require them to take iron supplements. These iron supplements sometimes lead to constipation as well.
When ignored or left untreated, constipation can become a serious issue. Therefore, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about your situation. It may be helpful to document all bowel changes. It’s also critical to understand that taking laxatives does not resolve the underlying issue and can make things worse if they are taken too often.
Fibroids and Bladder Issues
One of the most common symptoms of large or numerous fibroids is the effect they have on the bladder and urinary tract. When fibroids are left untreated, some can grow up to the size of a melon. This situation can resemble a second trimester pregnancy. When the uterus is expanded, it can put excess pressure on the bladder, causing it to compact to a smaller size.
If the bladder is squeezed enough, it can lead to frequent urination. If the fibroids are causing the uterus to push on the urinary tract, this can lead to the inability to fully empty the bladder. These symptoms can cause women to plan their entire day around being close to a restroom in case they need to use it at a moment’s notice. Some women may even be forced to wear pads or incontinence underwear in case of an accident.
Missing out on events with loved ones and feeling controlled by your bladder can severely impact your quality of life. In addition, frequent urination can become worse over time if the fibroids continue to grow or new ones develop.
Discover if your frequent urination or bowel issues could be caused by uterine fibroids by taking our two-minute quiz!
The Reasons for Bowel or Bladder Issues Caused by Fibroids
Bowel and bladder issues happen when the fibroids grow and press against the organs. If the fibroids are located in the back of the uterus and grow large enough, they can cause pressure on the colon. This can result in various bowel and bladder problems and symptoms, including bloating or constipation.
Fibroids can also lead to heavy periods, which result in significant blood loss. If you are diagnosed with anemia, the doctor may recommend iron supplements, which can also cause constipation.
Can Fibroids Cause Gas?
Fibroids can cause health issues that lead to gas. In severe cases, blockage of the digestive tract can happen when the fibroids press against the colon.
When the fibroid presses on the large intestine, it can prevent all the waste from being eliminated. If it stays in the intestine long enough, it can lead to excessive production of gas.
Treatment For Fibroids Pressing On Bladder Or Bowel
Women avoid treatment for numerous reasons, one being that it can often be embarrassing to discuss private symptoms. From a young age, we are conditioned to avoid some topics, especially those that include bodily functions like using the bathroom or menstruation. However, sharing and discussing these topics can help provide women with accurate information about their bodies, so they can understand when something is wrong and when to seek medical evaluation.
In a recent study, women reported on average waiting between one to three years before seeking treatment for fibroids. At USA Fibroid Centers, we are available to help you explore your options earlier so that you don’t needlessly suffer. If you are avoiding the doctor because you fear surgery, we want you to know that a range of treatments exist.
Our fibroid specialists offer a minimally invasive, outpatient treatment called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). UFE can shrink fibroids, alleviate symptoms, and improve your quality of life. Most women return to normal daily activities within one to two weeks.
UFE is performed by a fibroid specialist who will use ultrasound technology to guide a tiny catheter into the artery that supplies blood to the fibroid. The catheter is inserted into the thigh or wrist, where an embolic agent will be injected to block the blood flow to the fibroid. Since it can no longer receive nutrients, it can shrink and die, relieving constipation, bloating, and other digestive issues.
Uterine Fibroids Constipation Relief
If you suffer from uterine fibroids causing constipation issues, you will want to seek fast relief. A doctor may prescribe medication to help alleviate the problem until you can take care of the underlying cause, which are the fibroids. While you may get temporary relief with medication or other treatments, only eliminating the fibroid pressing on the bowel will provide permanent resolution.
Discover Relief at USA Fibroid Centers
At USA Fibroid Centers, we believe that fibroid treatment should be convenient and personalized. We have dozens of locations across the United States, and our online tool makes it easy to schedule an appointment with one of our leading fibroid specialists.
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- NIH. (June 2021) Symptoms and Causes of Gas in the Digestive Tract.
Reviewed by Dr. Jacob White, a board-certified interventional radiologist with expertise in performing Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). Dr. White has been studying and practicing interventional radiology for over 10 years, and was a researcher at Georgetown University Hospital Radiology and National Institutes of Health Radiology.