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A uterine fibroid, also known as a fibromyoma, is an abnormal growth in the lining of the uterus. It is a common condition in women, but can be difficult to diagnose until it becomes large enough to cause pain or other symptoms. The growth does not contain cancerous cells or typically cause any complications that affect pregnancy.
There are two types of uterine fibroids: submucosal and subserosal. Submucosal fibroids occur on the inside lining of the uterus, while subserosal fibroids grow on the outside. The main symptoms of submucosal fibroids are menstrual and include causing the length of vaginal bleeding to increase to more than a week or making blood flow during periods much heavier compared to a woman’s average menstrual period. Subserosal fibroids can increase pressure on the bladder and rectum and make it difficult for a woman to expel all of the urine and feces from her body. It may also cause discomfort in the legs or back if the growth touches the spine.
It is not conclusively known what causes a uterine fibroid to develop. The condition may be due to a genetic abnormality that makes the cells in the lining more likely to multiply and form a growth. The female hormones progestin and estrogen, which occur naturally and are also found in hormonal birth control, may also contribute. Having a relative with the condition may also make a woman more prone to growing a uterine fibroid. Although any race can get the condition, African American women tend to be at the highest risk.
In rare cases, a uterine fibroid may cause complications, especially if it continue to increase in size or if the base of the growth starts to twist. It can cause severe pain in the abdominal or pelvic region or suddenly increase vaginal bleeding during menstruation. If the fibroid is too large or twisted, it will not receive blood flow and will start to deteriorate and cause pain in the tissues of the pelvis.
If a woman doesn’t have any symptoms, she may not know she has a uterine fibroid unless she gets a gynecological exam. Even when a doctor discovers the condition, will generally observe the growth periodically and not recommend any treatment unless symptoms begin to occur. For more serious cases with symptoms, medications can help reduce the size of the fibroids and lessen the symptoms but may not be able to completely eradicate the growth. The fibroid can also be treated surgically with a myomectomy, in which a surgeon cuts away the growth, but it may still grow back.