What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Over 70% of women will develop uterine fibroids by the time they reach the menopause but many are unaware they have them. Find out here about what uterine fibroids are, what symptoms they cause and how can they be treated! Gedeon Richter has taken the time to answer these important questions for us.

This Q&A has been developed and funded by Gedeon Richter UK Ltd.

1. What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop from the smooth muscle of the uterus. They can develop inside the uterus, on the outer surface, within the wall, or attached to it.

2. How are uterine fibroids formed?

It is not completely understood what triggers the growth of uterine fibroids, but their development is thought to be linked to the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

3. Are there any demographics more susceptible to experiencing uterine fibroids?

There are demographic groups which have an increased risk for developing uterine fibroids; Afro-Caribbean women are three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids than Caucasian women, however it is currently unclear whether this is due to genetic or environmental factors.

Obesity is also associated with an increased risk for developing uterine fibroids, as fatty tissue increases the levels of oestrogen in the body, driving the growth of fibroids.

4. What are the symptoms associated with having uterine fibroids?

Approximately one in three women with fibroids will experience symptoms. The most common symptom of uterine fibroids is heavy periods. Other symptoms include abdominal and back pain, pain or discomfort during sex, and pressure on the bowel and bladder resulting in constipation and a frequent need to urinate, respectively.

5. If left untreated, what impact can uterine fibroids have on day-to-day life?

Severe symptoms of uterine fibroids can have a big impact on a woman’s daily life including affecting a woman’s wellbeing, ability to work, relationships and overall quality of life. If left untreated, heavy periods can lead to severe anaemia in some cases.

6. What should you do if you think you have uterine fibroids?

Please speak to your doctor or nurse about your symptoms. They can help confirm your diagnosis, decide on appropriate treatment(s) and if needed, refer you to a specialist.

7. What are the non-surgical treatments for uterine fibroids?

Non-surgical treatments of fibroids can be split into two groups: treatments to treat symptoms and treatments to reduce the size of the fibroids. In the former category, there are medicines available that can reduce the heaviness of periods. These include hormonal contraception and anti-inflammatory medicines. Medicines to reduce the size of your fibroids include Gonadotropin releasing hormone analogues (GnRHas) and selective progesterone-receptor modulators (SPRMs).

In addition to medication, a new, non-surgical procedure called hysteroscopic morcellation of fibroids, where a hysteroscope (a small telescope) and a specially designed instrument called a morcellator are inserted into the uterus via the vagina and used to cut away fibroid tissue.

8. What surgical treatments are available to treat uterine fibroids?

Surgical treatments may be considered if your symptoms are particularly severe and medication has been effective. Treatments available to women include myomectomy, which involves removing fibroids from the surrounding tissue, however the fibroids may grow back.  A hysterectomy, on the other hand, completely removes the uterus therefore preventing the regrowth of fibroids.

9. How does a healthcare professional decide on the best treatment for each patient?

There is no single treatment that suits all women. Determining which treatment is best suited for a patient is dependent on a multitude of factors including the size and location of the fibroids, if the patient has any previously existing conditions and patient preference.

10. What factors associated with uterine fibroids should women be aware about?

Research has identified several risk factors for developing fibroids. As previously mentioned, ethnicity and obesity are two contributors. Other factors include the age of first period, and number of children.

Lifestyle is also a risk factor. Increased consumption of alcohol, caffeine and red meat increases the risk of developing fibroids, whilst a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and regular exercise decreases the risk.

11. Where should people go to find out more about uterine fibroids?

FibroidsConnect.co.uk hosts a lot of information about the diagnosis, management and treatment of fibroids, along with stories from women living with them. Similarly, The Fibroid Foundation (www.fibroidfoundation.org) who are the premier global community of Fibroids patients have an FAQs section on their website and opportunities to volunteer and share your story. You could also speak to your GP about any local support groups you could join.

Gedeon Richter UK Ltd. is a pharmaceutical company who specialises in women’s health and fertility and is committed to improving the lives of women.

Production Date: UK/GYN/0319/0047d; April 2019

See Also:

Understanding Fibroids: The Patient’s Choice

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