Author: Houston Fibroids

Are all fibroids the same?

If you’re wondering, are all fibroids the same, this read’s for you! All fibroids, (also called myomas or leiomyomas) are non-cancerous growths of muscular tissues. They all develop in and on a woman’s uterus. Yet not all fibroids will develop in the same location, or cause the same symptoms. That’s why we tend to classify fibroids based on where with the uterus they develop.

The Three Types of Fibroids are all fibroids the same

There are three different fibroid classifications.  Intramural fibroids grow almost entirely within the wall of the uterus.  Submucosal tumors grow from the uterine wall and push into the cavity of the uterus. Subserosal fibroids grow out of the uterine lining, poking through the uterine wall. Your symptoms may be different from another woman’s depending on the type or location of your fibroids. But, for all women with fibroids, symptoms tend to fall in three main categories:

  • Pain
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Pressure

Location Based Symptoms

Bleeding
For all women, fibroids can cause long, heavy periods and/or bleeding even when it’s not that time of the month. All fibroids affect blood flow to the uterus in some way, which is why your period typically gets heavier. Women with submucosal fibroids typically experience the heaviest periods, because they push your uterine lining into the cavity, greatly expanding its reach. Heavy bleeding is a symptom that should be addressed right away with your doctor, since, over time, it can make you anemic.

Pain 
Mild discomfort or cramping is often a normal part of your menstrual cycle: the cramps are caused by slight changes to your uterus as you shed its lining. When you have fibroids, the changes to the uterus are more significant, which is why your cramps are likely to be stronger and more painful with these tumors. Women with intramural or subserosal fibroids may also experience lower back pain, as their enlarged uterus pushes against the muscles of the back. And women with fibroid tumors located near the cervical opening may experience pain during sex, although certain positions will be more comfortable than others.

Pressure
Women with fibroids often experience pressure or heaviness in the pelvis because the tumors increase the size of their uterus. Women with subserosal fibroids may become constipated or feel the need to urinate frequently, as their uterine lining expands and places pressure on either the bladder or the rectum.

 

Changes in Size and Symptoms

When your uterine tumors get large, that can make your symptoms worse. It may also limit your treatment options, since larger growths could require more aggressive treatment. Or, if the growths get too large, you may experience something called fibroid degeneration.

What is this condition? Well, it’s something that happens when your tumors are so large, they can’t survive with existing blood supplies. As a result, they start to break apart and die.

Now, while this sounds like an easy solution to your condition, it actually isn’t. Because, while your growths temporarily get smaller, they’ll likely grow back again. Plus, while they degenerate, you may experience painful symptoms such as sharp pain and fevers.

These growths may degenerate at any time, but it’s most common during pregnancy. One condition, known as red degeneration, almost exclusively affects pregnant women. It’s called red degeneration because the fibroids appear red in color as they break apart. During pregnancy, this may lead to heavy bleeding, so your OB may need to carefully monitor your pregnancy.

As you can see, the size and location of uterine growths can change the way you feel, or limit your treatment options. But, regardless of where your fibroids are located, and no matter which symptoms you find most bothersome, relief is available, often without surgery. Contact our Houston area fibroid specialists to learn if you are a candidate for our minimally-invasive fibroid treatment.

 

Sources: healthline.com, mayoclinic.org, verywellhealth.com 

 

 

 

3 Need to Know Facts on Pregnancy and Fibroids Location

Have you ever wondered about problems with pregnancy and fibroids? When you learn that you have fibroids, it means that you have a non-cancerous tumor in your uterus. And, since your uterus is a large, layered organ, we classify and name fibroids based on where in your uterus they develop.

In case you need a review: your uterus has three layers: the outer serosa; the middle, muscular myometrium; and the inner lining—the endometrium. This endometrium is the lining that you shed each month during your period.

Now that you’ve got the anatomy down, we’ll get to classifying fibroids. There are three different types of fibroids.
1. Uterine fibroids that develop beneath the outside covering of the womb are called sub-serosal.

2. If they form in your uterine muscle, they are intramural.

3. And if fibroids pop up in your uterine cavity, inside the endometrium, they are submucosal.

Many women find it difficult to become pregnant while they have untreated fibroids. But, if you do become pregnant, the location of your fibroids can make a major difference in your ability to carry your child to term.

Sub Mucosal Fibroids and Pregnancy

When it comes to pregnancy and fibroids, tumors that develop in your womb can have the greatest impact on your pregnancy. If the fibroid is large enough to change the shape of your womb, you may experience pregnancy complications. Common side effects include, spotting and pain. Your fetal growth could be limited, because fibroids take up too much space in your uterus. With pregnancy and fibroids, your risk for premature delivery and miscarriage also increases. And during your pregnancy, you’re also at risk for placental abruption (when your placenta detaches from your uterus.)

In some cases, your fibroid may require you to have a C-section. That’s because its growth can alter your baby’s position, or block off your delivery pathway.

Getting Pregnant with Fibroids

Sometimes, the location of your fibroid can make it difficult to become pregnant. In fact, we find fibroids in between 5% – 10% of women with infertility. The most common culprits? Fibroids that are inside your uterine cavity (submucosal). You may also have trouble getting pregnant with very large intramural fibroids (the ones within the wall of your uterus.)

Luckily, most women with fibroids can still become pregnant. But if you have fibroids and plan to get pregnant, you should receive a thorough medical evaluation. After all, fibroids can impact your fertility in several ways.

They can changes your cervix shape, limiting the number of sperm that enter your uterus. Depending on location, fibroids can also change your uterine shape, getting in the way of sperm or fertilized embryos. Some fibroids may block your fallopian tubes, which keeps your egg from traveling to your uterus for fertilization. Also, fibroids can impact your endometrial lining, making it harder for embryos to implant. This problem is further complicated if fibroid affect blood flow to your uterine cavity. Why? Limited blood makes it even tougher for embryos to implant in your uterus.

Fibroids and Pregnancy: Concerns After Conception

Now you know what you need to watch out for when you’re trying to conceive. But here are some concerns to understand when you’re dealing with pregnancy  and fibroids.

  1. Submucosal fibroids can restrict your fetus’ growth, because they take up space in your uterus. Towards the end of your pregnancy, you may also experience more pain as your growing baby and your fibroid fight for limited space.
  2. Any fibroid that changes the shape of your cervix increases your risk for a breech delivery. (That’s when your baby is born feet-first, instead of the more optimal head down position.)
  3. If your fibroid blocks your baby’s placenta, the placenta could break away from the inner wall of your uterus before your delivery, impacting your baby’s nutrition and oxygen levels. (Called placental abruption, this situation can leave you with heavy bleeding. And it may mean a forced early delivery for your baby.)

Now, we know these are all scary ideas. But here’s some good news for you. First of all, these complications occur in between 10 to 30% of pregnant women with fibroids. So, your pregnancy could be unaffected. And, most fibroids don’t grow during pregnancy. In fact, with your changing hormone levels, some fibroids may even shrink while you’re pregnant.

Still, given the potential risks to you and your growing baby, you should talk to your healthcare provider about your fibroids if you want to become or already are pregnant. Or, if you’re thinking of starting your family, and you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, schedule a consultation with our Houston fibroid specialists. We can review treatment options that can help you conceive and safely carry your baby to term.

Sources: American Society for Reproductive Medicine

#WCW: Period Poverty, Period Trauma, and Symptoms You Can’t Ignore

Every woman will experience unwanted period symptoms at some point. Because, let’s face it: sometimes having your period is a pain. Literally. You may get cramps. You may feel bloated or tired. But, as it turns out, some period symptoms should always be cause for concern. In fact, they may even lead to a condition known as period trauma, which disproportionately impacts black women.

Regardless of your period experience, the number one symptom to never ignore is universal. And its periods that keep getting longer! Or ones that put you in a position of financial hardship. The latter of which is an issue being tackled by Anisha Abraham, a teen in Tampa Bay, making her our Woman Crush Wednesday honoree!

What is Period Poverty?

Period poverty describes a situation in which women can’t afford to buy feminine hygiene products. According to the University of Pennsylvania Nursing School, about two-thirds of low income women spend years unable to purchase their period products. And, in any given month, one fifth of all women can’t afford to buy pads or tampons.

Many people think of period poverty as an international problem. After all, girls in Uganda regularly miss school since they don’t have access to feminine hygiene products. But it’s a problem here in the U.S., too. In fact, according to a Thinx survey, 80% of American teens know a girl who’s had to miss school because of period poverty.  Young Australian women are also impacted by this concern. In a U by Kotex survey of 660 Australian girls age 10-18, 28% of students all across the country missed school because they lacked access to feminine hygiene products.

In fact, seeing these kinds of surveys is what moved Anisha to launch the Pink Power Project. It’s a non-profit that allows her to donate thousands of feminine hygiene products to non-profits in her native Tampa Bay, FL. And it’s also allowed her to blog about menstruation. Because she wants to remove period stigma, but also raise awareness of painful period symptoms. So that women don’t consider period changes normal. And, instead, talk to their doctor about new or worse period symptoms. Including periods that suddenly become longer.

What is Considered a Longer Period?

tampons

On average, your menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. (That count runs from the first day of one period and ends on the last day before your next one.) Still, cycles vary, so having a cycle anywhere between 21 to 40 days is normal.

When your periods are normal, bleeding lasts between two and seven days. You typically lose just three to five tablespoons of blood over those days. But sometimes, you bleed for longer. And, when that is the case, you often end up losing a lot more blood as well.

Of course, a longer or heavier period doesn’t always mean you have a health problem. But, since periods that last over a week could be a sign of an underlying condition, you need to be seen by your doctor if long periods are becoming your new normal.

What Causes Long, Heavy Periods?

In some cases, a longer period means you’ve got an iron deficiency, especially when you’re also dizzy or have chest pain or difficulties breathing.

One long, heavy period could mean you have a ‘missed miscarriage,’ meaning you lost your baby before you knew you were pregnant.

If your periods used to be shorter, then suddenly become long and heavy, you could have cervical cancer or even kidney disease. A more common cause of heavy periods, however, are fibroid tumors, non-cancerous growths that develop in or around your uterus. They could also be a sign of adenomyosis, a condition in which the inner lining of your uterus breaks through its muscle wall.

Basically, a long, heavy period could mean something really serious is going on with your body. Or it could mean nothing at all. But, given the possibilities, it’s always worth discussing this, or any sudden change in your cycle, with your doctor. Especially if you find yourself traumatized by the experience of your monthly cycle.

What is Period Trauma?

As The Period Doctor Charis Chambers explains to Well + Good, period trauma is, “any sustained psychological, social, or emotional injury/distress related to or caused by menstruation.” Which means that women who experience period poverty likely also experience period trauma.

But it also means that women who have to miss work because of longer periods, or who deal with impacts on their sex lives, are at risk for period trauma. Now, that applies to the 40% of young women in Western Australia who regularly skip school during their periods for fear of teasing or embarrassment. It also implies that women with fibroids are at increased risk for period trauma. And, since African American women have a higher fibroid risk than women of all other races, they’re also more likely to deal with period trauma.

There are several ways women can address and find relief from period trauma. But, as Houston fibroid specialists, we believe the best way is to make periods less traumatic. And, since treating your fibroids reduces disruptive symptoms like long, heavy periods, we think that’s a great way forward. So schedule a consult with our experts today, and make a move towards reclaiming your mental and physical wellbeing!

Sources: Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, Tampa Bay Times

Can I Slow Fibroid Growth?

If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine tumors, you may want to learn how to slow fibroid growth. After all, many women with fibroids have questions. Why did I get this kind of tumor? How fast will it grow? What can I do to slow down or stop the growth in my fibroids?

While we don’t know what causes women to develop fibroids, we have some clues about what increases your fibroid risk. In the past, people thought that vaginal infections could increase your risk for fibroids. But recent studies suggest that bacterial vaginosis or other infections don’t increase your odds of developing fibroids.

With one theory disproved, others remain. It’s clear that Black women develop fibroids more often than women of other races. And, while research is ongoing, we think that could be due to chemicals in hair products targeting Black women, as well as other environmental factors.

We also have an understanding of what these tumors are and what factors may increase your risk of developing fibroids. We also know certain factors that affect fibroid growth. To help you gain a better understanding, let’s start at the beginning, with a basic explanation of fibroids.

This x-ray reveals a fairly large uterine fibroid

What are Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in the wall of your uterus. Fibroids can grow alone or in clusters; they vary in size, from microscopically small to rare cases where they grow to the size of fully-developed fetus.

Fibroid symptoms can include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Painful periods
  • Bloating in the pelvic region
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful sex
  • Frequent need to pee

What Can Speed Up Fibroid Growth?

While your genes will play a role in how quickly fibroids grow, hormones like estrogen and progesterone also affect the growth of these tumors. Without these two hormones, fibroids are unable to grow which is why, in the past, causing a woman to experience menopause was considered the only cure for fibroids. Thankfully, we now know better and can offer women less dramatic treatment options.

How Big Will My Fibroids Become?

It’s difficult to know how big a fibroid tumor will become–growth varies from person to person, predict how big a fibroid will grow or what causes a fibroid to grow rapidly. In some cases, fibroids even disappear without treatment. This however, is not common: most fibroids will grow larger unless you opt for medical intervention.

So, just how big will your fibroids become? Honestly, the size limit is based only on your body’s ability to expand. Fibroids can stretch and enlarge your uterus to accommodate their own growth. In fact, some fibroids get so big that you appear to be in the second trimester of pregnancy!

In extreme cases, fibroids will grow so large that doctors can only treat them with surgery. For this reason, it’s important to begin researching fibroid treatment options as soon as you receive a diagnosis.

Can I Slow Fibroid Growth?

Certain steps, like adopting  a fibroid-friendly diet, may slow the growth of these tumors. Research suggests that dairy products like milk, cheese and ice cream may inhibit fibroid development. Green tea has also been shown to slow fibroid growth and, in some cases, even kill off existing fibroid cells.

For some women, the hormones in certain forms of birth control can help slow fibroid development.

When it comes to interventions that simply slow down fibroid development, there are no guarantees…that’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that we have better treatment options available. Instead of slowing fibroid growth, interventional radiologists like Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee are able to use a method known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization to cut off the fibroid’s supply of blood and oxygen. This minimally invasive treatment causes fibroids to shrink and, eventually, die. Want to know if you’re a good candidate for UFE? Just reach out to our Houston area team and we’ll be happy to set you up with a comprehensive consultation.

Dr. Hardee on Differences in Endometriosis, Uterine Fibroids and Adenomyosis

Those who have been diagnosed with endometriosis or uterine fibroids may actually be suffering from adenomyosis. Learn more about this condition, and why it’s hard to diagnose, from our very own Dr. Eric Hardee on FOX 26 Houston:

Read the full article:

 

fox 26

 

If you have any further questions or if you would like to schedule an appointment with Houston Fibroids, please call (713) 575-3686 or request an appointment online today.

 

 

Warning: Surgically Induced Menopause Hurts Your Heart

When you undergo hysterectomy, we say you’ve gone through surgically induced menopause. Now, when you’re living with fibroids, your main concern is treating your symptoms. You just want to feel like yourself again. As soon as possible. But sometimes, in your rush to find a cure, you don’t think about the consequences of the treatment option you select. Now, studies point out the toll that may take on your long term health. Especially if you choose hysterectomy, an option that leads to surgically induced menopause.

Surgically Induced Menopauses and Heart Disease Risk

So many women with fibroids choose to treat their tumors by having a hysterectomy. With this choice, you remove your uterus, automatically putting yourself into menopause. And once you enter menopause, especially if you do it before you turn 40, you’re at greater risk of osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke. Serious woman

Those conditions are all pretty scary, but they don’t even pain your complete risk picture. In fact, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School, your risk goes up even more if your early menopause is brought on by surgery.

To reach this conclusion, researchers spent six years studying 144,260 women between the ages of 40 and 69. At the beginning of the study, the women completed a questionnaire about the details of their reproductive health. And, throughout the study period, researchers noticed the rate of coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and narrowing of the arteries for all the women. They also checked up on the women’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels, rates of diabetes, and any other health diagnoses.

What they found was startling. All women who entered menopause before turning 40 had higher rates of cardiovascular problems. But the women whose menopause was trigger by surgery were even more likely to develop heart health issues. And that’s not all: having an early hysterectomy triggers many other problems. Which is something Olivia Lichtenstein recently opened up about in the Daily Mail Online.

Adapting to the New You

While there is no shame in choosing a surgery for pain relief, Lichtenstein writes that she felt ashamed to discuss her procedure. “The onset of menopause shrouds women in a cloak of invisibility; add to that a hysterectomy and the folds of this cloak thicken and feel ever more inescapable,” she says.

Like so many women, Lichtenstein scheduled her hysterectomy to relieve fibroid pain. And, she was 55, had children and wasn’t worried about surgically induced menopause. (She’d naturally entered menopause a few years earlier.) Still, she says, it left her feeling like she was “missing the most vital part of [herself as a]women.”

Of course, for women who haven’t yet completed their families, the emotional toll is much worse. Now, fibroids may impact your fertility. Or your ability to carry pregnancy to term. But hysterectomy is often not the answer. In fact, many hysterectomies could be avoided, if you only explore other treatment options.

For some women, hysterectomies are medically necessary—especially if you are also dealing with a cancer diagnosis. But, for many women with fibroids, non-surgical treatments like Uterine Fibroid Embolization will be equally effective—and cause fewer additional health problems. So, before you choose hysterectomy, we urge you to explore all your fibroid treatment options. Especially the ones that won’t send you into menopause. And we invite you to schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists today.

 

Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association

Adenomyosis vs. Endometriosis: Learn the Differences

So many menstrual symptoms can leave you stuck with an adenomyosis vs endometriosis diagnosis. That’s because, if you experience painful periods, heavy bleeding, and chronic pelvic pain, your symptoms could mean a few different things. First, you could have fibroids. But there are two other diagnoses that might apply: endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial tissue leaves your uterus and implants in other parts of the body. When you start your period, this rogue endometrial tissue sheds as well, causing you to bleed in your pelvis and beyond. This bleeding can leave you with cysts, scar tissue, and adhesions.

Adenomyosis also causes these kinds of symptoms, but it is a separate condition. With adenomyosis, endometrial tissue lodges itself deep in the muscle of the uterus. It does not leave the uterus.

While initial symptoms seem to be similar, there are several ways in which these conditions affect you differently.

Distinguishing Symptoms of Adenomyosis

As we mentioned, both endometriosis and adenomyosis leave women with pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. What’s different is the timing of that discomfort: women with adenomyosis usually experience that pain around their periods. Women with endometriosis have period pain, but often also experience pain with bowel movements and at other times in their cycle.

Both conditions result from uterine tissue growing outside your uterus. But with adenomyosis, that tissue also penetrates the muscular wall of your uterus, developing inside the tissue. For many women, this triggers symptoms that are far more invasive than those associated with endometriosis.

With adenomyosis, your period could feel like it’s gushing out. This could lead to iron deficiency, anemia and dizziness. And that’s on top of the chronic pelvic pain and uncomfortable sex we already discussed. Of course, many of these symptoms might also mean fibroids or endometriosis. Which is why your healthcare provider may go through several diagnostic tests to get you the proper diagnosis.

Adenomyosis vs Endometriosis: Differing Diagnosis Methods

Endometriosis can be tough to diagnose, which is why many women can only confirm they have this condition after laparoscopic surgery (a doctors insert a thin tube with a light and camera into a small incision in your stomach. This tube lets them see the lesions, cysts, and adhesions that confirm this condition.)

In contrast, women with adenomyosis can usually receive their diagnosis with an MRI or transvaginal ultrasound. These minimally invasive tools can also confirm the scope of your condition: if you have just a few cysts in your uterus, your adenomyosis is considered focal. If the tissue is widespread within your uterus, you will be diagnosed as having diffuse adenomyosis.

Treating Adenomyosis: UAE Can Help

For both endometriosis and adenomyosis, there are a wide variety of treatment options. These include options as simple as birth control pills or an IUD, to an array of surgeries, some as serious as hysterectomy.

Hysterectomy is the only cure for these conditions, but other options can help control your symptoms. For women with adenomyosis, there is a newer treatment available: UAE, or Uterine Artery Embolization. (This treatment may also be called UFE, uterine fibroid embolization, but the process is the same.)

With UAE, particles are injected into the uterine artery to block the blood flow to the specific problem area in your uterus. The goal is to deprive the tissue of both blood and oxygen, so your condition will abate. The procedure involves an overnight stay in the hospital.

Our doctors use three types of particles: smaller, normal and larger particles. This new protocol has increased UAE’s effectiveness rate to 80%. For this reason, UAE seems to be an excellent short term treatment option for many women.

If you have adenomyosis and are seeking relief, we’re here to help. Go online and schedule a consultation at our Houston area adenomyosis center. Or, to speak with one of our doctors, please give us a call anytime at 713-575-3686.

 

Sources: ABC Everday, Health.com

 

#WCW: The Fibroid Diagnosis That Almost Took Down an Olympic Athlete

You’d think that everything comes easy for Olympians, including getting a fibroid diagnosis. After all, when we think about Olympic athletes, we think about strength, dedication and perseverance. And all three of those words aptly describe Tianna Bartoletta, a two-time Olympic athlete with three Track & Field gold medals to her name. Stiff competition from around the world couldn’t stop her from coming out on top in sprinting or long-jump events. But an undetected-fibroid tumor nearly ended her career…and possibly even her life.

Unfortunately, she’s not alone in her experience. Because your official fibroid diagnosis comes after reviewing your symptoms and receiving a physical exam. Then, if your provider believes fibroids are responsible for your symptoms, you may need an ultrasound as well as blood work or urine analysis to confirm what’s going on.

But remember what we said: your diagnosis journey begins when you describe your fibroid symptoms to a caregiver. Sadly, many women overlook their concerns, and that can lead to major complications and delayed diagnosis. Even for Olympic athletes. Don’t believe us? Just check out our Woman Crush Tianna’s incredible, adapted from the version she shared on her personal blog.

First Signs of a Problem

Tianna reports that her journey began with a mandatory drug-screening for athletes. Rather than finding illicit drugs in her system, Tianna’s screening revealed that she was severely anemic. When she went into the hospital for treatment, the elite athlete told her doctors about her suspected source of the problem. Recently, she’d gone from having short, light periods to cycles that were extremely heavy and lasted 14 days!

Her doctors took in this information, gave her some iron infusions and sent her away…with a diagnosed thyroid condition! The iron infusions gave her more energy, but she was still having heavy periods. And it wasn’t until a disappointing performance at the U.S. Nationals, plus a fainting spell at the hospital, that doctors finally discovered the cause of her problems. You guessed it…a giant fibroid was taking up almost all the space in her uterus.

As Tianna tells it, “I’m back on the table now in the ultra sound room. The grainy black and white picture is displayed on a monitor mounted on a wall in front of me. If I didn’t already know I wasn’t pregnant I would have been alarmed. Because there was something there. Occupying a large area of my uterus. A fibroid tumor.” Now that she finally knew the source of her problems, it was time to seek treatment.

Surgery is the Only Option

Because Tianna’s diagnosis was so delayed, and because she’d lost so much blood, her fibroid had to come out right away. She was scheduled for emergency surgery the same day as her diagnostic ultrasound. And she remembered that her mother had also dealt with fibroids—but with a dramatically different outcome.

“My mother has gone through the same thing, with the exception that when she did it the recommendation was a hysterectomy-which she got,” Tianna reflected. Fortunately, though Tianna did need surgery, she opted for a fertility-sparing myomectomy (even though that means her fibroids may return.)

Unfortunately, Tianna is just one of many African-American women struggling to deal with fibroids. In fact, women of color are three times more likely to develop these non-cancerous tumors as compared to white women.

So, that’s the bad news, but here’s the reassurance: women today have more options than ever when it comes to treating fibroids. With an early diagnosis, surgery is often avoidable. And women are free to explore less-invasive options like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE.) The key, however, is to learn the fibroid symptoms (like pelvic pain and long, heavy periods) so you find the tumors before you reach a condition like Tianna’s.

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