Author: Houston Fibroids

Polyps vs Fibroids: What’s the Difference?

Many people assume that uterine polyps and uterine fibroids are the same category of condition, but they couldn’t be more wrong. These two reproductive health issues are very different in their nature, which means that each issue should have a very different treatment plan. pain from uterine fibroidsIn order to understand the differences, we first have to understand exactly what characterizes each condition.

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Fibroids are growths within the uterine wall that are made up of muscle tissue. They typically develop within the muscle walls of the uterus and push outward toward the uterus. They tend to develop around a woman’s childbearing years, but can form at any time. 

Fibroids range in size from a few centimeters all the way up to the size of an orange (or, in extreme cases, the size of a small fetus). Many women who suffer from fibroids feel pelvic pain or pressure, but other common symptoms include:

  • Heavy, long-lasting periods
  • Frequent urination
  • Incontinence
  • Painful intercourse
  • Infertility

What are Uterine Polyps?

Like fibroids, polyps are growths that develop around the uterine wall, but that is where the similarities end. During menstruation, the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) is shed and regenerates after the period cycle. Over time, roundish growths (polyps) can begin to develop as the endometrium begins to grow back.  There are two types of polyps: pedunculated (attached to the uterine wall by a stalk) or sessile (attached by a large base). Typically, polyps grow in size from anywhere between a few millimeters to a few centimeters.

Pedunculated polyps are more common than sessile; they can protrude from the uterus into the vagina. Women will typically only feel pain from uterine polyps when this happens. Other common symptoms include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Spotting between menstrual periods
  • Infertility
  • Bleeding after menopause

The Differences Between Uterine Polyps & Fibroids

Here are the main differences between polyps and fibroids:

Uterine Polyps

Uterine Fibroids

Made of endometrium tissue

Made of muscle tissue

Grows within the endometrium tissue

Grows within the uterine wall

Grows to be a few centimeters maximum

Can grow to the size of an orange

Periods are usually irregular and spotty

Periods are usually heavy and long-lasting

Doesn’t usually cause pain

Pain can be chronic and severe

 

If you are suffering any symptoms listed above, make an appointment with a fibroid specialist. Call Houston Fibroids at (713) 575-3686 to schedule your consultation. 

 

There’s A Treatment for Fibroids That Improves Your Sex Life

It’s no secret that uterine fibroids can cause you to experience a number of unpleasant symptoms. Women commonly report bloating, abdominal pain and irregular or heavy bleeding, none of which are conducive to enjoying a typical sexual relationship. In fact, the effects of life with uterine fibroids can be debilitating for some women.

Results after UFEUnfortunately, half of women diagnosed with uterine fibroids are told that having a hysterectomy is their only option–even though studies show that uterine fibroid embolization is safe, effective and produces fewer complications than surgical hysterectomy.

Improved Sexual Function after UFE

In an  EFUZEN study conducted in 2016, researchers looked at how the procedure known as uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) affected sexual function in women.

Study participants underwent imaging with MRI before treatment, and again at three and six months after having the procedure.

Researchers wanted to know if fibroid embolization would help improve the women’s sexual function, and if so, by how much. They also sought to evaluate the participants’ quality of life before treatment and one year after UFE. They hoped to gain a better understanding of how fibroid size impacted a woman’s sexual function and her quality of life.

The study used two scoring systems: 

  • Female Sexual Function Index [FSFI] score
  • Uterine Fibroid Symptom Quality-of-Life (UFS-QOL)

Both of these are commonly used by physicians and researchers exploring women’s health conditions.

Results of the Study

When the study was concluded, researchers found women who had UFE enjoyed a significant improvement for both scores. FSFI improvement was shown in 78.8% of women one year after treatment. 90.2% of women reported an improvement in their USF-QOL scores.

The numbers don’t lie. UFE can help reduce ALL your fibroid symptoms, so you can reclaim your sexual health.

If you suffer from uterine fibroids, talk to your doctor about the options and see if a uterine fibroid embolization procedure is right for you.

#WCW: Georgia News Anchor Battles Fibroids

Just a few months ago Augusta, Georgia News 12 anchor Monique Williams was missing a lot of work because of her battle with fibroid pain. At first, the anchor wanted to keep the reason for her leave private, but soon realized she owed an explanation to her viewers. 

In going public with her personal health struggle, Williams shared some scary information: like herself, eight out of every 10 black women are impacted by uterine fibroid tumors. In Ms. William’s case, her fibroids progressed to the point where doctors had to perform major surgery, ultimately opting to perform a complete hysterectomy due to the solid, sheer mass of the tumors. 

The TV anchor’s struggle left her entire news team wondering: why do African American women have such a high risk of developing fibroids? 

Black Women and Fibroids
Although it’s unclear exactly why, black women are three times more likely to develop fibroids than women of any other race. Although no direct causatio

n has been found,  family history plays a major role in the increased odds. Like Monique Williams, her mother also ended up getting a hysterectomy in order to put an end to her fibroid pain. In addition to a genetic predisposition, potential exposure to the chemicals in hair relaxing products and an earlier onset of menstruation may all increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids. While there is no way to prevent fibroids from first developing, high-risk women can and should take certain precautions.

Dealing with the Risk of Fibroids
First and foremost, women with a high likelihood of developing fibroids should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of these tumors (major red flags include heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal pain and bloating and anemia); black women should ask their OBGYNs for regular screenings. Visits to the doctor should be annual. 

Since both a diet high in carbohydrates and increased body weight both elevate fibroid risks, it’s also important for women to get regular exercise and choose lean proteins, fruits and veggies over bread, pasta and other grains. 

For Ms. Williams, who has now returned to her news desk, sharing her story was all about helping other women know their options. While a hysterectomy was her choice, she made sure to share information on fertility-preserving treatment options like myomectomy (surgical removal of individual tumors) or tumor-shrinking, non surgical procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE.) As a news anchor, Monique lives to inform others, and because she turned her personal struggle into a teaching moment for all other women, we salute her as our Woman Crush of the week! 

What Makes Fibroid Morecellators So Dangerous?

When a woman has uterine fibroids, she may be advised to have surgery: either a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or myomectomy (removal of the fibroid). During a laparoscopic surgery, doctors once thought it was ok to use a power morcellator, a tool that help surgeons divide and break up tissue into smaller pieces. This helped doctors easily remove your fibroid tissue through a small surgical incision.

Dangers of morcellation during myomectomyWhile this idea is good in theory, we now know that this tool has been found to spread cancer cells throughout your body. In fact, the FDA has warned against the use of power morcellators.

Why is Morcellation Dangerous?

When women undergo either a hysterectomy or myomectomy, they may also have malignant uterine sarcoma, an aggressive type of cancer that is fatal once it spreads. Because of the rapidly spinning blades on the power morcellator, malignant cells can be spread to other areas inside the abdomen.

Previous data suggested that 1 in every 10,000 women who undergo myomectomy or hysterectomy has an undiagnosed uterine sarcoma, but newer findings suggest that number is actually closer to 1 in 350. This discovery makes morcellation even more dangerous than originally thought.

Is There a Way to Make Morcellation Safer?

While some surgeons suggest that the use of containment bags will help minimize the unwanted spread of tissue, this method isn’t completely safe–after all, these bags can break! 

Because of all the potential risks, there is currently no way to make morcellation safe. It is nearly impossible to diagnose a sarcoma that is hidden by a fibroid tumor, so it is far safer for surgeons to avoid performing this procedure.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization: A Non-Surgical Option

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is performed by an interventional radiologist and blocks blood flow to the uterine fibroids, thus causing the tumors to shrink. No incisions are needed and the uterus remains completely intact. Patients leave the office without sutures and are able to go home the same day. And, because no surgery is necessary, there is no risk of spreading dangerous cancer cells to other parts of your body! 

To learn more about UFE, schedule a consultation with Houston Fibroids.

How Do I Know if I Have Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine FibroidsUterine fibroids are far more common than you might think. According to the National Institutes of Health, 80 to 90 percent of African American women and 70 percent of Caucasian women will develop fibroids before the age of 50. 

Since uterine fibroids are prevalent, can cause severe symptoms and can even lead to trouble getting or staying pregnant, it is important to know the warning signs of fibroid development.

Who is At-Risk?

African American women are three times more likely than caucasian women to develop fibroids; they are also more likely to develop several fibroids at a time. Other factors that could increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids include:

  • Being over 40 years of age
  • Obesity
  • Having a family history of fibroids
  • Having never been pregnant
  • Having high blood pressure

Can I Lower My Fibroid Risk?

While many factors can increase your fibroid risk, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing these non-cancerous uterine tumors. Some measures include:

  • Becoming pregnant
  • Balancing your hormones
  • Long-term use of birth control pills or shots
  • Following a fibroid friendly diet (see more here

 

What are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?

Every case is different and some women may never experience symptoms, but a majority of women with fibroids experience at least one of these three common symptoms. 

Excessive Menstrual Bleeding

The most common symptom for women with fibroid tumors is excessive bleeding while menstruating. Often times, the bleeding is prolonged, causing periods to last longer than normal. This can lead to soiling of clothing and may interfere with everyday activities.

Pelvic Pain & Pressure

Women with fibroids may feel pain in their lower abdomen. As fibroids grow larger, depending on their size and location, they may cause pain by putting pressure on organs. In addition, it could cause swelling that is often mistaken as weight gain or pregnancy. 

Loss of Bladder Control

Fibroids can press against the bladder causing frequent urination and even loss of bladder control. Not only can this cause a great deal of pain, it can disrupt your everyday activities. In addition, fibroid growth can place pressure on the bowel, causing constipation and bloating.

How are Uterine Fibroids Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with our fibroid specialists. Fibroids can usually be found during a simple abdominal or pelvic exam. If your doctor feels that you may have fibroids, an ultrasound or MRI may be used to confirm the diagnosis and proceed with treatment

 

 

#WCW: Gabrielle Union’s Journey to Surrogacy

At our Houston-area fibroid clinic, we celebrate the journeys of strong women. And we’ve dedicated Woman Crush Wednesday as the perfect time to share their stories in the hopes of helping others. This week, we want to highlight Gabrielle Union, whose diagnosis of adenomyosis ultimately led her fertility plans to surrogacy.

Adenomyosis and Pregnancy 

Last year, Union revealed that she has adenomyosis, a unique condition of the uterus that causes a woman’s endometrial tissue to grow into the muscles of her uterus. Symptoms include severe cramping and chronic pelvic pain, and the condition often leads to an enlarged uterus, as well as especially painful menstrual cycles and/or pain during sex. While there is no known cause for adenomyosis, many medical professionals believe that the condition may be related to a variety of other health conditions, including advanced age and previous uterine surgeries. 

For Union, her adenomyosis meant years of failed IVF treatments, miscarriages and, ultimately, the decision to carry her baby via surrogate. Now that she’s welcomed daughter Kaavia with hubby Dwayne Wayde, she’s opening up about what she looked for in a surrogate. 

In a recent interview with Women’s Health magazine, Union said: “Some people care about the race, religion, or food habits of their surrogate. I was like, ‘I want a reader.’” In that same interview, she admitted the fear involved in her fertility journey, saying,“There’s nothing more that I wanted than to cook my own baby. The idea of [a surrogate] felt like surrendering to failure. People want to see the bump, hear that you got hemorrhoids — they want to know you’re like them. I was like ‘This is going to seem like the most Hollywood shit ever. Will I be embraced as a mom?’ It’s terrifying.”

Still, now that er daughter has arrived, Union is able to look on the bright side of her long path to motherhood. She says, “Any earlier and the FOMO would have greatly influenced how I parented,” she admitted. “I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. I’ve done it well. I’ve gotten all the T-shirts. Now I’m in the right mindset and mental space, and I’m open to being the best mom I can be.” Her strength and grace is an inspiration for all women, which is why she’s this weeks #WCW.

Treating Adenomyosis 

While the only cure for Adenomyosis is a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, patients who are not ready to embrace that extreme treatment can still find relief.

Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help with the pain and reduce the blood flow. Taking birth control pills and other hormones is another treatment frequently used. Endometrial Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that destroys the uterine lining, but its success depends on how deeply the tissue has penetrated into the wall of the uterus. 

UAE for Adenomyosis

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

If like Gabrielle Union, you are struggling with adenomyosis, it’s time to start exploring your treatment options. To speak with one of our Houston area interventional radiologists, call us anytime at 713-575-3686.

 

Should I Change My Diet Because of Fibroids?

While there is no foolproof way to avoid fibroids, once you have been diagnosed with these benign tumors, certain dietary changes may help keep their growth in check. Balancing your hormone levels can help manage fibroid development and symptoms since hormones, particularly estrogen, are one of the leading causes of new fibroid development and growth. And one easy, non-invasive way to balance your hormones is through simple changes in your diet.

 

Foods to Avoid with Fibroids

Foods for fibroids

If you are trying to manage your fibroids and maintain or shrink their current size, balancing your hormones naturally is a great first step. Your diet has a strong influence on your hormone levels, which is why it’s one of the first (and easiest) areas to apply changes.

For best results in managing your fibroids, try restricting the following food and drinks from your diet:

  • High-Fat, Processed Meats – Red processed meat is known to be high in added hormones, particularly estrogen.
  • High-fat Dairy Products – Conventional dairy can contain high levels of steroids, hormones, and other chemicals that promote inflation.
  • Foods High in Salt – Highly salted foods are hard on your liver, which is the organ that is most responsible for removing toxins and balancing hormones.
  • Refined Carbohydrates – White foods such as pasta, white bread, white rice, cakes, and cookies have been known to alter estrogen levels, causing fibroids to increase in size.
  • Refined Sugar – High consumption of sugar can result in inflammation and weight gain; there is an association between weight gain and hormone imbalance.
  • Caffeine – Too much caffeine puts additional stress on your liver, discouraging the organ from working the way it should (think: balancing hormones!)
  • Alcohol – Over-consumption of alcohol can lead to inflammation of the body and reduced immune function. Reducing or eliminating alcohol can help promote a healthy balance of hormones.

Best Foods to Eat With Fibroids

If you’re already feeling restricted just looking at the list above, don’t panic: there are so many options that can help you fill the gaps you’re eliminating. Added bonus? They may just help improve your general health while helping keep fibroids in check: 

  • Organic foods
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Beta-carotene rich foods (such as carrots and sweet potatoes)
  • Food high in iron (such as grass-fed beef and legumes)
  • Flaxseeds
  • Whole grains

Supplements may also help shrink or maintain fibroid size. Vitex, fish oil, and B-complex are a few supplements that have been known for creating a better hormone balance. Be sure to speak with your physician before introducing new supplements into your diet.

When Your Diet Isn’t Enough to Control Your Fibroids

Your diet and lifestyle can only do so much in your attempt to manage your fibroids. If you suffer from common fibroid symptoms such as heavy periods, bloating, frequent urination, constipation, and pelvic pain, Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) may be the next best option.

Uterine Fibroid Treatment in Houston

UFE is a low-risk, minimally-invasive procedure for the treatment of uterine fibroids. Women commonly choose UFE over a hysterectomy for fibroid removal as it avoids surgery, preserves the uterus, controls symptoms, and improves quality of life.

Contact us at (713) 575-3686 for more information, or to schedule an appointment with our interventional radiologists at Houston Fibroids.

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Why Does my Stomach Hurt After Sex?

Pain during sex is upsetting and can make you avoid intimacy, but pain immediately after intercourse can be equally frightening–and even more confusing! To get to the bottom of why you may be experiencing stomach pain after intimacy, we’re explaining some common causes for post-coital stomach pain:  

What Makes Your Stomach Hurt After Sex 

1. You have fibroids.

While fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that form in your uterus, they are known to cause pain during sex. A lesser known, but also common, symptom? Fibroids can cause you to experience cramping, which could explain why your stomach hurts right after sex.

What to do: Fibroids can be diagnosed by a pelvic ultrasound or MRI. If you receive a fibroid diagnosis, know that there are non-surgical treatment options available. Be sure to discuss all treatment possibilities with your doctor.

2. You have endometriosis.

Endometriosis is basically occurs when bits of your uterine lining make their way out of your uterus. When you have endometriosis of the pelvis, your organs in that area may adhere to each other. Deep penetration can thus cause you to experience stomach pain, often severe, during and after sex.

What to do: Endometriosis can be difficult to diagnose, so you’ll want to discuss your entire medical history, including your stomach pain, with your doctor. If you have enough symptoms to suggest endometriosis may be the culprit, you will have to undergo laparoscopic surgery to receive a diagnosis. After you are diagnosed, birth control pills or certain other medications can help control your symptoms.

3. You have a pelvic cyst.

While ovarian cysts (typically harmless, fluid-filled sacs that develop in or on your ovary) are usually harmless and don’t require any treatment, pelvic cysts are a different story. They may be a sign of a bigger problem brewing, like an infection or an anatomical issue that will need correcting.

What to do: A pelvic cyst can be diagnosed via ultrasound, and, if detected, it can be removed by a laparoscopic procedure.

4. You have an infection like PID.

Pelvic Inflammatory disease, or PID, is a type of vaginal infection (a.k.a. pelvic inflammatory disease) that can occur when bacteria is spread from your vagina to your uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. One common PID side effect is vaginal pain that’s so widespread, it can be mistaken for stomach pain. Unfortunately, if you don’t treat PID promptly, it can leave you with scarring that can cause stomach pain long after your infection clears up.

What to do: See your doctor right away. If you catch an infection early on, symptoms can usually be cleared up quickly with antibiotics. If, however, scarring and/or PID has set in, more invasive treatments may be necessary.

 

Those are the ‘scary’ reasons that your stomach may hurt after sex. Of course, there are some other, less problematic, causes of post-coital stomach pain—you’ve tried a new position, or you’re not using enough lube. But, since sex should feel good, and since stomach pain after sex doesn’t feel good and could be a warning sign of something more serious, it’s best to talk to your doc right away if pain during or after intercourse is something more than a one-time occurrence.

 

These Fibroid Myths are Worth Forgetting

If you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, here’s the truth: you may experience side effects like heavy periods, pelvic pain and constipation. You may have difficulties becoming pregnant, or carrying a pregnancy to term. You will certainly want to talk to your doctors about all the treatment options that are available to you. Those are the facts. Now, here are the fictions that you need to dismiss: 

MYTH #1: Untreated Fibroids Will Keep On Growing 

Some fibroids, if left alone, will keep on growing. In fact, some women who have delayed fibroid treatment ended up with fibroids the size of a nine-month-old fetus. But that is not always the case. Many women with fibroids will not even realize it, because their tumors are tiny, stable in size, and cause no symptoms. Other fibroids may grow to a certain point and then stop growing altogether. And, on rare occasions, some fibroids will rupture, creating a medical emergency.

But here’s the tricky part: it’s hard to know what kind of growth pattern your fibroid will follow. For that reason, even if you decide to delay treatment, you will want to see your doctor regularly to monitor tumor development. 

MYTH #2: Fibroids must be removed.

Fibroids that aren’t causing symptoms may not require any form of treatment, especially if you’ve completed your family or have no interest in becoming pregnant. If your fibroids are causing symptoms like heavy bleeding, severe pain or fertility problems, you’ll likely want to seek treatment, but surgeries like myomectomies (removal of the fibroid) or hysterectomies (removal of the uterus) are not your only options. 

If you’ve decided to treat your fibroids, you may be able to undergo Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive treatment option that shrinks your fibroids over time by blocking the blood flow to them. Not everyone is a candidate, but if you are looking for a treatment option with little down time and no hospital stays, it’s worth exploring with your interventional radiologist. 

MYTH #3: Taking medication can make fibroids disappear.

Nonsurgical fibroid treatments, like UFE, are sometimes an option. And some other treatment options, like progesterone-based pills or shots, or certain birth controls, can lessen fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding. Some drugs may even help shrink your fibroids over time, but the benefits will disappear as soon as you get off the meds. Additionally, several fibroid medications have recently been connected to other, more serious, health complications 

MYTH #4: Menopause Cures Fibroids

While many women will experience relief from fibroids after the onset of menopause, that’s not the case for everyone. In fact, if you decide to  undergo hormone replacement therapy to manage menopause symptoms, you may even see new fibroid development! 

Postmenopausal women can still require treatment for fibroids. And for many of these women, who have completed their families,  a nonsurgical approach like UFE will be the ideal treatment option. 

If you are facing a fibroid diagnosis, don’t listen to the myths or rumors. Speak to your doctor about all the treatment options available, and make an informed decision based on the facts alone. 

Normal or Not: Your Period Edition

So many people are too shy or embarrassed to talk about their periods, and that’s a big problem: if you don’t speak up, you may worry needlessly or you may never identify symptoms that indicate a bigger medical problem. In order to help you navigate this sensitive subject, we’re breaking down what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to your monthly visitor. Keep in mind, however, that every woman’s cycle is different, so it’s worth mentioning any major changes to your OBGYN, even if they are seemingly within the normal range. 

First things first, though: a quick review of the basics.

What is your period?

A period is the shedding of your uterine lining. This lining builds up over the course of the month in preparation for pregnancy. “If you don’t get pregnant, your hormone levels drop, and the lining separates from your uterus. That’s when you experience the bleeding known as your period.

Bleeding

Normal: Women’s periods are typically heavier at the start of their cycle, and gradually become lighter.

Not Normal: If you have to change your pad or tampon more than every few hours; if you are bleeding through protection or having to get up at night to change your protection so you avoid stained sheets; or if you are passing large clots, you may be experiencing abnormal bleeding. And, while the excess bleeding can be problematic on its own (left unchecked, it can cause anemia), it could also be the sign of underlying problems like fibroids, certain cancers or other medical concerns.

Timing

Normal: Again, all women are unique, but ‘normal; cycles range from 21 to 35 days between the first day of one period to the first day of the next. The bleeding typically lasts between three and eight days, according to their website.

Not normal: Once you’re out of adolescence and have established your normal cycle range, any major timing changes could be problematic. Missing a few cycles when you aren’t pregnant? That’s something to discuss with your doctor. Bleeding outside of your regular period, or during sex? Another issue to discuss with a medical caregiver. Changes in your cycle often indicate that your body is under stress; it’s important to figure out the source of that stress before other areas of your health are affected.

Pain

Normal: Mild discomfort during your period is normal, and should be easily managed with OTC medications. Standard cramps or period-related discomfort shouldn’t affect your day to day life.

Not normal: Pain that can’t be managed with drugstore medications is a sign of a problem. Pain that causes nausea and vomiting, should also be cause for concern, especially of the pain begins to radiate down your legs. Excessive pain could be an indication of endometriosis or adenomyosis, conditions that are difficult to diagnose if women aren’t forthcoming about their symptoms.

Pelvic pain experienced outside of your period is also not ‘normal’ and should be investigated further, as it is a potential indication of fibroids, non-cancerous tumors that develop in and around your uterus.

Thankfully, treatment is available for almost all the conditions that make your period “not normal.” But the only way to receive help is to speak up, so discuss any menstrual cycle changes with your doctor as soon as you identify an issue!