Uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous tumors that grow inside or on the muscular walls of the uterus, impact up to 80% of women in the United States. While some women with fibroids do not experience symptoms at all, others with large fibroids may struggle with heavy periods, severe cramps, and a range of other issues.
Fibroids can also cause acute pelvic pain, which can be a result of a process known as fibroid degeneration. Below, we discuss this process, along with signs of fibroids breaking down. If you believe you are experiencing uterine fibroid degeneration, we recommend contacting a fibroid specialist as soon as possible.
What is Fibroid Degeneration?
To understand what causes fibroid degeneration, you first need to know about how fibroids grow. Although the causes of fibroids are not entirely understood, it is widely believed that hormones like estrogen and progesterone are contributing factors.
Fibroids are made up of living cells and require oxygen and other nutrients in the blood to live and grow. They receive the nutrients they need through a uterine artery and attached blood vessels.
Uterine fibroid degeneration occurs when a fibroid outgrows its limited blood supply. When the connecting blood vessels cannot provide enough oxygen to a fibroid, its cells begin to die, or degenerate. When a fibroid degenerates, it shrinks back to a smaller size that its blood supply can support.
Signs of Fibroids Breaking Down
Though fibroid degeneration occurs naturally, it can cause discomfort and other concerns if not treated. The good news is that when you recognize the symptoms, you can seek help from a fibroid specialist.
If you have uterine fibroids, watch for the following fibroid degeneration symptoms:
- 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, it’s still important to mention it to your doctor. Treatment for fibroids could significantly improve your comfort and quality of life.
- Fever: Fibroid degeneration can cause a mild fever. If you have a fever and don’t know the cause, seek advice from your doctor.
- Bleeding: In rare cases, a degenerating fibroid may cause severe bleeding. You should seek immediate care for abnormally heavy bleeding during menstruation, even if it occurs during your period.
- Discharge: Some women experience fibroid degeneration discharge. This can be watery or tinged with blood.
In rare cases, a fibroid growing inside the uterus can become twisted, blocking blood flow to the fibroid entirely. When this happens, symptoms last significantly longer than they would normally, and may require treatment.
If you experience any of these issues, we recommend contacting a fibroid specialist as soon as possible.
Is Fibroid Degeneration a Good Thing?
As discussed above, fibroid degeneration is caused by a fibroid outgrowing its blood supply. When nutrients are unable to reach the fibroid through its blood supply, cells begin to die off and painful symptoms can occur. It is easy to imagine that fibroid degeneration may be a good thing; after all, your fibroid is dying off, isn’t it? While this is true in a sense, the full picture is a little more complicated.
Though fibroid degeneration does decrease the size of fibroids, a degenerated fibroid is likely to expand and degenerate again. Though many people with fibroids don’t experience symptoms on a daily basis, fibroid degeneration can cause uncomfortable symptoms, which is why it’s important to minimize how often it occurs.
Fortunately, fibroid treatment can help break this cycle. At USA Fibroid Centers, we perform a minimally invasive treatment called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). This procedure can quickly shrink your fibroids, and after UFE treatment, fibroids rarely regrow.
Fibroid Degeneration and Pregnancy
Some women with fibroids may experience difficulty getting pregnant or experience complications while pregnant. Fibroid degeneration can occur during pregnancy, usually during the second or third trimester, and typically involves large fibroids. This can be alarming for pregnant women, especially if abdominal pain is accompanied by bleeding.
If you are pregnant and experience signs of fibroid degeneration, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.
Explore Your Treatment Options at USA Fibroid Centers
In the short term, you may be able to manage fibroid degeneration symptoms at home. However, you should always have new symptoms evaluated, along with notifying your fibroid specialist if your symptoms begin to worsen or impact your normal activities.
To break the cycle of fibroid degeneration and prevent additional suffering, we recommend seeking treatment for uterine fibroids. At USA Fibroid Centers, we Uterine Fibroid Embolization that can shrink fibroids and may help prevent fibroid degeneration. UFE is performed in an outpatient setting and involves a short recovery period that typically takes only one to two weeks.
The leading fibroid specialists at USA Fibroid Centers can help identify the best treatment for your individual situation. Initial consultations are available at dozens of locations nationwide. We also offer telemedicine options. Our services, including telemedicine visits, are covered by most insurance plans. If you want to verify your coverage before you schedule a consultation at one of our locations, just give us a call at 855.615.2555.