Author: Houston Fibroids

Why is my period so heavy?

Almost no woman is a huge fan of menstruating, but sometimes a heavy flow is really too heavy. If you’re soaking through a pad or tampon every few hours, it could be a sign that your menstrual flow is abnormal or problematic. Want to know why? Here are six common causes of menorrhagia (a condition characterized by heavy menstrual bleeding): 

1.    Fibroids
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that typically develop in a woman’s uterus. Though not inherently dangerous, they lead to heavy menstrual bleeding and, ultimately, infertility. Studies have revealed that approximately 10% of women who experience heavy periods have fibroids.

2. Polycystic ovarian syndrome

This condition is associated with irregular and infrequent periods. PCOS causes growths to develop around a woman’s cervix or uterus; the growths are either the result of high estrogen levels or are caused by infections. Because periods are irregular with PCOS, the uterine lining has a longer time to thicken, adding to the volume of a woman’s menstrual blood and making her flow abnormally heavy.

3. Endometriosis

With endometriosis, tissue that’s similar to the lining of the uterus develops outside of the uterus. When a woman with endometriosis menstruates, she sheds all of the lining tissue, regardless of its location, making her period very heavy.

4. Hormones

When a woman is dealing with a hormonal imbalance—either low or high levels—she can experience irregular ovulation, affecting periods. As with other conditions that affect your menstrual cycle, hormonal imbalances that give you less frequent periods can make the periods you do have extra heavy.

5. Clotting Problems

Certain genetic conditions, or even certain medications, can affect your body’s ability to form blood clots. While this problem is extremely rare, if you are one of the women affected by a natural or medical bleeding disorder, your periods may become very heavy.

6. IUDs

An IUD or intrauterine device is a long term form of birth control that’s implanted in your uterus. In certain cases, IUDS—especially ones that don’t contain hormones—can cause you to experience a heavier than normal period.

 

Only your doctor can determine the specific cause of your heavy menstrual flow. If you are dealing with heavy periods and want some answers, schedule a consultation with our highly trained fibroid physicians right away. Don’t wait for another cycle to find relief! 

What is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?

While pelvic pain, incontinence and uterine fibroids often go hand in hand, pain in your pelvis can be a red flag for other serious conditions. One such problem is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS), a medical problem that is triggered by internal varicose veins in your lower abdomen and pelvis. fibroids treatment

These varicose veins, which can’t be seen from the surface of your skin, are caused by reflux in your veins—typically, in the veins of your ovaries. The kind of pelvic pain connected with PCS is more of a chronic ache; some women describe the sensation of someone tugging or pulling in their pelvis.

PCS is a long-term condition, meaning symptoms will stick around, but with this problem, the pain can be made worse when you first stand up or first sit down. Lying down, on the other hand, can provide relief from the pain of PCS.

In addition to pain in your pelvis, PCS can trigger an irritable bowel and/or bladder and painful sex. PCS may also cause visible varicose veins to appear in or around your vulva, vagina, perineum and anus.

While PCS is fairly common, it is often misdiagnosed because the symptoms mimic other conditions, and the root cause of the problem is buried deep within your body. Here’s what you need to know about PCS in order to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment:

What is PCS?

PCS is a painful condition caused by a build-up of too much blood in your pelvis. As we mentioned before, it is usually caused by internal varicose veins. Individuals with PCS will experience a dull, aching pelvis period over an extended period of time. Women are more likely to develop PCS than men, but both genders can be affected.

When men are affected by PCS, the condition is easier to diagnose and treat, because two of men’s four pelvic veins are visible on the outside of their bodies. Because all of women’s pelvic veins are invisible on the surface of their bodies, PCS can be harder to spot for women. Most women with PCS have previously been pregnant, but even women who’ve never had a pregnancy can develop the condition.

Why does Pelvic Congestion Syndrome develop?

As we already mentioned, PCS develops because of varicose pelvic veins. Varicose veins in the pelvis begin to develop when their valves fail, causing blood that should be pushed out of the pelvis to stick around in the area instead of traveling back to the heart. When this happens, the veins become dilated and put pressure on sensitive areas of the pelvis and on the pelvic floor muscles (the ones you exercise when doing your kegels.)

What are the symptoms of PCS?

PCS usually causes women to experience pain deep in their pelvis or uterus; the pain is usually dull or aching rather than sharp or intense. The pain of PCS gets worse throughout the day, and can be exacerbated by exercising.

While PCS pain is typically dull, changes in posture or heavy lifting can cause women to experience sharp pains in their abdominal area. With PCS, sex and periods can also become more painful.

Some women with PCS also have bladder symptoms that include a frequent need to pee, frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom and even incontinence. Many women will also develop vaginal or vulvar varicose veins.

Can PCS be treated?

If diagnosed correctly (typically with an ultrasound scan) PCS is easily treated by Pelvic Vein Embolisation, a procedure that your Houston interventional radiologist can perform.  Pelvic Vein Embolisation is an x-ray technique performed under local anesthetic. Your doctor puts into your vein; with the help of ultrasound technology, a catheter (thin tube) is then pushed into the problematic pelvic vein, where it can be used to deposit embolizing material that will permanently block off the vein or veins that cause your PCS symptoms. With the vein blocked off, blood will no longer build up in the area. The vein will start to shrink and symptoms should resolve quickly after that.

With proper care, PCS can be treated and resolved quickly, with a minimally invasive procedure. With over 30 years of combined experience, Drs. Fox and Hardee are highly trained at spotting the symptoms of PCS and providing appropriate relief. If you’re experiencing dull, aching pelvis pain and your symptoms have stuck around for a while, it’s important to schedule an in-office consultation right away. You don’t have to live with chronic pelvis pain—you just need to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment plan!

#WCW: Porsha William’s Pregnancy with Fibroids

For years, Real Housewives of Atlanta Star Porsha Williams has kept quiet about her struggle with fibroids. Even when it hurt her attempts to get pregnant. But now that the Bravo star is expecting her first child, she’s opening up about her journey. Her decision to share this story makes her our very special Woman Crush Wednesday of the week! 

When Ms. Williams was married to her ex-husband, Kordell Stewart, she suffered a miscarriage and then tried for six years to get pregnant again. During this difficult period, Porsha found out she had uterine fibroids (non-cancerous tumors that grow in the uterus) that could be affecting her ability to carry a baby. Because of her age and hopes for a family, Porsha sought fertility-saving treatment. She ultimately had a myomectomy–a surgery that removed her fibroid but kept her uterus in place and in tact. 

While her marriage ended, her hopes for a baby did not and, just recently, she proudly announced that she’s expecting her first child with boyfriend Dennis McKinley. While her story end happily, Porsha admits that it’s been a tough road for the couple. 

“It’s something we’ve both always wanted,” Porsha told People magazine, also sharing that McKinley’s “probably shed more tears during the process than me.” 

Fear and Joy
Even hearing that she was finally pregnant was a tense moment for Porsha. On the way into her first pregnancy scan, she wondered, “Because I suffer with fibroids and had to have a myomectomy [I kept thinking] ‘Is the baby going to be okay? Will I make it full term?’ All those questions that you ask if you’ve had a miscarriage before.” 

Thankfully, Porsha’s pregnancy seems to be progressing well, and she and Mr. McKinley look forward to welcoming their child in 2019. As Houston fibroid doctors who work to give women alternatives to hysterectomies, we love hearing stories like Dennis and Porsha’s. Too many women believe that they must undergo a hysterectomy in order to treat their uterine fibroids, but brave women like Ms. Williams are showing the rest of us that that is not the case. Pregnancy is possible, even after fibroids. As long as women know their options and make their voices heard, uterine fibroids do not have to mean the end of their fertility! Thank you to Porsha and to all our other brave #WCWs for making their voices heard and giving fellow women the power of information. 

Women Demand Equal Fibroid Care

Together with Acessa Health Inc., the White Dress Project has launched the Goodbye Fibroids initiative to unite women, doctors and political leaders in order to raise awareness of and improve care for women living with fibroids.  

Recently, the two groups made a presentation at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference to discuss how women of different races are not receiving the same quality of fibroid care. As Acessa Health CEO Kim Rodriguez pointed out, “Unfortunately, there is a well-established racial barrier to women receiving less invasive alternatives to hysterectomy.” In other words, though black women have a much higher risk of developing these non-cancerous uterine tumors, they are much less likely to receive information about the full range of fibroid treatment options, including minimally invasive procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

The facts are clear (and upsetting): among women who elected to have hysterectomies to treat their fibroids, African American women were less likely to receive a minimally invasive surgery compared to white women. They were also 40% more likely to develop complications, nearly three times as likely to have an extended hospital stay, and three times as likely to die after their procedures.

While these are statistics for hysterectomies, they don’t even begin to explore other fibroid treatment options—which likely means that women aren’t even being informed about hysterectomy alternatives.

Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, told the Black Caucus, “As a community we need to begin to address and change the clear, systematic and structural defect within the US healthcare system that disproportionately pushes women of color toward the most invasive option, which is hysterectomy.”

As interventional radiologists in Houston, we could not agree more. We applaud the Goodbye Fibroids movement, and have ourselves been promoting #FibroidFix, a campaign to make all women aware of all the available treatment options for fibroids, particularly the ones that will preserve their fertility and minimize the risk of surgical complications. Will you join us in spreading the word? Please share this information with all your female friends and help us and the Goodbye Fibroids team make better healthcare accessible to every woman in this country.

Will Fibroids Make me Infertile?

For women who haven’t completed their families, a fibroid diagnosis can be scary: one of the first questions we often hear from patients is, “Can I still have a baby if I have fibroid tumors?”  Fibroid Treatment After Pregnancy

The answer is, unfortunately, not completely clear cut. Without treatment, some women will still be able to get pregnant, but many women will have trouble conceiving without some kind of fibroid treatment. If fibroids stay small, or develop in places where fertility isn’t affected, becoming pregnant may not be a problem. If, however, the fibroids become very large, they may physically block your egg from joining up with male sperm. Even if the sperm and egg are able to join together, a large fibroid could stop the new embryo from becoming implanted in your uterine lining. And, even if an embryo does implant, an untreated tumor can negatively impact the health and growth of a developing fetus. 

So, that’s the bad news…at least part of it. Fibroids can also affect women’s fertility in other, less obvious, ways: 

  • Some fibroids may change the shape of your cervix, limiting the number of sperm that are able to enter your uterus. 
  • Fibroids can also change the shape of your uterus, potentially decreasing the number of places in which an embryo can successfully implant. 
  • Fibroids can weaken the lining of the uterine cavity. They can also decrease the amount of blood reaching a growing fetus. Both of these issues can cause a pregnant woman to miscarry.

Fibroids Don’t Have to End Your Fertility Journey

With all the tolls fibroids can take on your reproductive system, there is still good news: many women who have been diagnosed with fibroids go on to have one or more children. While many women used to automatically undergo hysterectomy (complete removal of the uterus) after learning they had fibroids, these days there are many fertility-preserving options. 

Many women who plan on having children will choose to have a myomectomy (surgically remove the uterine fibroid.) Other women will choose to have a less invasive procedure, like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), that shrinks their fibroids by permanently cutting off the non-cancerous tumor’s blood supply. Although the research is not conclusive, many women who have UFE have been able to move on and complete their families in the way they want. 

A fibroid diagnosis can certainly be scary, especially if you aren’t done having children, but in this case, knowledge really is power. Getting informed about all your options and choosing the best solution for your family will go a long way towards keeping fibroids from derailing your reproductive plans. 

Shelley’s Story

Uterine fibroids is a condition that affects over 70% of women in the U.S. by age 50. Excessive menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain are common symptoms of uterine fibroids, and often disturbs one’s day-to-day lifestyle. Shelley, a patient at Houston Fibroids, suffered from uterine fibroids and described her periods and cramps before fibroid treatment as “excruciatingly painful” with excessive bleeding. Additionally, she found sexual intercourse to be quite painful.

Shelley didn’t want to resort to getting a hysterectomy to treat her conditions, and went through an informative consultation process with Houston Fibroids to explore less invasive treatment options. Shelley had minimal pain and downtime after the Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) procedure, and after a year, has no symptoms of uterine fibroids. “It’s been a little over a year and I’ve had no pain during sex anymore, no bleeding during sex anymore, my cramping is very light, it’s normal now, and my periods are not heavy whatsoever.”

When asked if she had advice for anyone suffering from uterine fibroids, Shelley recommended the UFE procedure. “I’ve always recommended this. It was recommended to me from another patient, and I truly feel it changed my life.”

If you would like to learn more about how UFE can help treatment uterine fibroids, contact Houston Fibroids at (713) 575-3686 for a consultation.

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#WCW: Helping Vanessa Beat her Fibroid Pain

In our fibroids practice, we strive to provide women with treatments that help them alleviate their pain and frustration without having to undergo surgery. What makes this mission so rewarding is hearing from our happy patients. Recently, one of our patients, Vanessa Williams, agreed to share her story of pain and recovery with other women in search of help with their fibroids. 

Vanessa’s Fibroid Story
Ms. Williams had been in pain and dealing with other complications when she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. Still a young woman, she did not want to be treated with a hysterectomy (the surgical removal of her uterus), an option that would immediately send her into menopause. Yes, it would solve her fibroid problem, but it would also leave her facing a long and painful recovery. She knew there had to be a better option.

Doing her Research
Like so many of us do, Vanessa hit the internet in search of alternate treatment options for women with fibroids. Thankfully, during her search, Ms. Williams came across our Houston Fibroids Facebook page—and that’s when everything started to change.

On our page, she learned about Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) a non-invasive treatment option that could permanently shrink her tumors by cutting off their supply of blood and oxygen. She read first-hand accounts of women who’d had the procedure and whose lives had truly been changed by their ability to manage pain without undergoing a hysterectomy. She was convinced, and she came into our office.

Inside her Recovery
At our office, Vanessa met with Dr. Fox. At the initial consultation, during which she was determined to be a good candidate for UFE, Ms. William’s was able to ask all her questions and get immediate answers from our team of experts. She decided to go ahead with UFE and scheduled a procedure date.

After her treatment, during which a catheter was inserted into her arm to deliver embolizing materials to her fibroids, Vanessa was determined to return to our Facebook page and share her story in the hopes of helping other women find and learn about this alternative treatment option. She had the following words to share about her journey:

After the procedure, “It was very painful for about three days due to the cramping. I had meds but had a hard time taking them. However I am so thrilled after totally healing. I have so much energy!! My stomach shrank as well. So look into this if you suffer with fibroids. All of my female issues gradually started to leave. As of two weeks ago I’m 100 better totally free of those issues”

Find Your Fix
We are grateful to Vanessa for so generously sharing her story, and to all of our patients who have bravely opened up about the benefits of UFE, helping so many women learn about their options. For more information on UFE and other fibroid treatments, feel free to reach out to our office staff and team of physicians.  

This Woman had a 61 lb. Tumor in her Uterus!

A 53-year-old woman in Singapore just went through a life-altering surgery when she had a giant, 61 pound tumor removed from her uterus. The woman had avoided treatment for so long that the weight of her tumor left her unable to get out of bed. Additionally, the woman was having difficulty breathing and even moving within the confines of her bed. 

When the patient finally arrived at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, doctors determined her growth was a fibroid, a non-cancerous tumor. Unfortunately, due to the incredible size of the, doctors could only treat the problem by performing a hysterectomy. The doctors also had to remove the woman’s ovaries. 

According to Dr. Poh Ting Lim, a member of the team that treated the patient, the removed tumor was 26 inches across at its widest point. Because of its size being larger than 25 pounds, the tumor was classified as “giant”–the largest fibroid tumor ever recorded was found in the late 1800s, and weighed 100 pounds! In addition to performing a hysterectomy, doctors had to surgically reconstruct the woman’s abdominal wall. It had stretched and thinned to a dangerous point in order to accommodate the giant growth in her uterus. 

How Fibroids Grow
Of course, for most women, a fibroid this size is only a horror story. Fibroids are common but slow-growing, typically expanding by about nine percent every six months. Of course, an increase in size of nine percent could have a major impact on a woman’s pain levels and reproductive health, but the relatively extended time period gives patients plenty of time in which to seek treatment. In fact, according to estimates from the doctors in Singapore, their patient must have waited at least five years before seeking help for her condition! 

For patients who are proactive about their health, however, their is plenty of time to address uterine fibroids before a hysterectomy becomes necessary. With minimally invasive treatment options available, situations like these are completely avoidable–you simply need to reach out to a fibroid specialist as soon as you notice symptoms such as pain or heavy menstrual flow! 

WCW: Erin Robinson’s Fibroid Campaign

When Amazing Race and YouTube star Erin Robinson discovered her ongoing pain was being caused by 13 uterine fibroids, she knew she had to do something more than just get treatment for her condition: she had to take a stand for women’s health. After all, in her role as an on-air hostess for YouTube’s Clevver station, she and her team “produce 40 videos a week,” she says. Of course, the content she pushes professionally is usually funny, offering people an escape from their problems, Robinson knew she had a platform to help people dealing with the same kind of fibroid pain. And she knew she had to use it!  

Documenting Her Struggle Uterine Fibroids
Deciding to call her new video “It Gets Real,” (see the video at the end of the post) Erin begins her story by telling viewers: “I was suffering for a really long time.” From that moment of truth, she allowed the camera to follow her through the process of researching the best treatment for her condition. While she initially feared that she would lose her uterus to hysterectomy, Erin eventually found a doctor who treated her fibroids by shrinking them instead of removing the non-cancerous tumors. 

For Erin, the treatment plan was life changing. As she explains, “I felt better than I’ve ever felt before. I think you live with pain for so long — you self-medicate, you stretch, you workout, you do whatever you can — you start forgetting what being normal feels like.”

She decided to film her story (using an all female crew) and share it publicly for two reasons: to teach women about alternative fibroid treatments that avoid hysterectomies, and to remind women to see their doctors as soon as they start feeling unwell. At the time of her initial diagnosis, Erin explains, “I hadn’t been to an OBGYN in four years. And we talk about that in the show. Whenever I tell people that, they either say, ‘Wow, you should have really gone,’ or ‘I haven’t been either.’ I have friends who I tell this story to who have never been to a gynecologist. The more I talked about this, the more I found that women needed to hear this message.”

Spread the Word on #FibroidFix
In our Houston fibroid practice, we also offer fibroid treatments that shrink tumors by cutting off their supply of blood and oxygen. So often, we are surprised to learn that our patients’ ObGyn’s didn’t suggest this type of treatment; instead, like Erin, they had to research the option on their own. We stand with our #WCW Erin Robinson in believing that women have a right to know all their fibroid treatment options. So help us and Erin Robinson spread the word and let’s get information about alternative fibroid treatments trending today!