Category: Fibroid Symptoms

#WCW: How to Talk About Fibroid Fears

Let’s face it: it’s hard to talk about fibroids. Now, as fibroid specialists in Houston, we know that a fibroid diagnosis doesn’t have to change your entire life. But we also know how scary it can be to learn you have tumors in your uterus—even though they aren’t cancerous. So that’s why his week’s Woman Crush Wednesday is our choice of honoree—she’s getting very real (in a very public way) about her fears over a fibroid diagnosis. Plus, she’s scoring attention nationwide, making it easier for all women to talk about fibroids. Here’s to you, Shay Johnson, for sharing your fibroid story on Love & Hip Hop. And for your new role as the Fibroid Fighters Ambassador!

Spreading the Word  Shay Johnson helps women choose UFE vs hysteretcomy for fibroid treatment

Recently, the Fibroid Fighters association named Shay Johnson as a brand ambassador. Fibroid Fighters is a non-profit group with a mission that’s close to our heart. Their goals include:

  • Educating people about how fibroids cause health, social and economic damages
  • Focusing on research and treatment advances
  • Spreading the word about minimally invasive treatments like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)

In announcing Shay’s new role, CEO Yan Katsnelson said that the star’s “Willingness to share her ordeal with fibroids will help bring attention to this health epidemic. Women need hear from others that have suffered from fibroids and learn about non-surgical treatments such as Uterine Fibroid Embolism (UFE) that preserve the uterus and can relieve their painful symptoms.”  And those goals are something Shay’s been all about. For a long time now.

Women Need to Talk About Fibroids

When discussing her new role, Shay said, ““At one point, when I had to say the word, fibroids, I was terrified because I had memories of my symptoms and what I had to go through.”

And that was clear when, a few years back, Shay took to her social media accounts, sharing images of her in a hospital bed. She’d been admitted for a blood transfusion. But, at the time, she didn’t explain why she needed that transfusion.

Then, a little while later, she changed all that. Shay explained to her fellow cast member, Michelle Pooch, “There’s a few things going on with me medically that I haven’t told you about. I’m not dying, [but] I do have a medical condition called fibroids.”

In fact, she continued, she has two fibroids—one of them that has grown so large, it’s now the size of the grapefruit. And this, it turns out, was the explanation for last year’s transfusion.

As Shay explained to Michelle, one of her fibroid symptoms is that she has, “heavy menstrual cycles for longer than 15 days, [and] on top of that, I’ve been fainting because I’m losing so much blood.”

Because of her severe symptoms, Shay’s doctor suggested she remove her fibroids surgically (myomectomy.) In telling Michelle about this suggestion, Shay admitted that she was scared—both about her upcoming surgery and about what her monthly periods would look like afterwards.

Providing Women with Other Fibroid Treatment Options

Like many African-American women (who are disproportionately affected by fibroids), Shay opted to treat her fibroids surgically. And that may well be the treatment option that’s best for her. But, many women aren’t told they have non-surgical options, too. That’s why, today, Shay says, “I went through a myomectomy which they removed the fibroids, instead of a hysterectomy that would have removed my uterus.”

Now she knows why we all have to talk about fibroids. She says, “I realized that…the more we speak up about fibroids, the more awareness we can bring to women who are going through the same issue. The more awareness we raise means we can help prevent the miscarriages, the extended periods, and the pelvic pain women experience by having better treatment options.”

Of course, that includes procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), which can help women with severe fibroid symptoms. Typically, the relief they experience will be equal (or even superior to) that of women who’ve had fibroid surgery.

But, in order to experience relief and avoid surgery, women need to know their options. So, while we commend Shay in this post, we also ask for help spreading the word. We want you to know that there are non-surgical treatment options. And we invite you to explore them with a fibroids consultation in our office. Now, will you help us help women #ask4UFE? If you do, you just might earn a spot in our #WCW hall of fame!

 

Forget Fibroid Myths & Ask these 7 Fibroid Doctor Questions

One of the biggest problems in women’s health is myths that keep you from asking the right fibroid doctor questions. Even though 70-80% of women can have fibroids during their life, many women don’t know what uterine fibroids are, and sometimes don’t learn about all of their treatment options. Here are a few myths and misconceptions about fibroids, explained by our interventional radiologists who specialize in treating fibroids. After you’ve read through those myths, discover the most important questions to ask your fibroid specialists!

Myths about uterine fibroidsMyth 1: Fibroids, Tumors, Polyps, and Cysts are the Same

In a recent blog post, we discussed the differences and similarities between fibroids and polyps in the uterus. But, you may hear other similar terms, like tumor or cyst. Many people don’t know whether these terms mean the same thing, or they all refer to different conditions.

  • A fibroid is a benign growth and is rarely associated with cancer. These growths develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus. You may hear a fibroid referred to as a “fibroid tumor” even though it is benign.
  • A polyp is made of endometrium tissue and is usually benign.
  • A cyst will develop on the ovaries and can be malignant.
  • The phrase “uterine tumors” typically signifies uterine fibroids, and are benign. Uterine cancer, however, refers to a malignant growth of cells in the uterus.

Myth 2: A Fibroid Tumor is Cancerous

Fibroids are almost always benign and rarely turn into cancer. The difference in symptoms between cancer and a benign fibroid will help your doctor diagnose a growth as malignant. Cancer is sometimes diagnosed during surgery for what is thought to be benign fibroid tumors.

Myth 3: Fibroids Have Consistent, Defined Symptoms

There is no one symptom that will alert you to the fact that you have uterine fibroids. Many women have uterine fibroids at some point during their life, but most don’t have any symptoms. The most common symptoms include heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods, or pelvic pain, but there are other symptoms that women can experience.

Myth 4: Surgery is Your Best Option

If you don’t experience symptoms, treatment isn’t necessary, and many fibroids will shrink after menopause. There are a variety of treatment options available if you do experience symptoms. For women who want a non-surgical alternative, want to preserve their uterus, or want a quicker recovery period, Uterine Fibroid Embolization may be recommended.

Myth 5: Fibroids Continue to Grow, and will Grow Back after Treatment

Fibroids typically grow in alignment with hormone levels, which is why symptoms worsen during menstruation. This is also the reason fibroids may grow during pregnancy, but shrink after menopause. We cut off the existing fibroid’s blood flow during UFE, and it is very rare for them to regrow. In one study, only 5% of women needed additional treatment after UFE.

7 Fibroid Doctor Questions to Ask Our Specialists

Now that we’ve debunked the major fibroid myths, we want you to get the most out of your visit to our Houston fibroid practice. So here are the Top 7 fibroid doctor questions to bring up during your visit. (With a few basic answers). We hope they will help guide you towards your best treatment options.

1. HOW DO FIBROIDS DEVELOP?

The truth is, we don’t really know why. But we do know that African-American women have a higher risk for fibroids. And that they’re most common before you reach menopause.

2. ARE ALL FIBROIDS THE SAME?

Actually, there are four types of fibroids, classified by location.

3.  WILL MY FIBROIDS CAUSE PROBLEMS?

If you’re seeking treatment, you probably know this already. But fibroids can affect your periods, your sex life and your fertility.

4. WHAT IS AN INTERVENTIONAL RADIOLOGIST?

Our team of specialists are Interventional radiologists. We offer minimally-invasive, image-guided treatments for fibroids.

5. WHAT ARE MY FIBROID TREATMENT OPTIONS?

As we said before, forget the fibroid myth that surgery is your only option. There are other ways to manage fibroids, including lifestyle changes and UFE.

6. WHY WOULD I CHOOSE UFE OVER SURGERY?

With UFE, you experience fibroid relief. You can also avoid scarring and hospital stays. Plus, there’s no need for  general anesthesia and a shorter recovery period. Most importantly, you can keep your uterus and avoid symptoms. All while enjoying quick symptom relief. 

7. WHEN WILL I START FEELING BETTER AFTER UFE?

With a few days of your treatment, symptoms should improve. But remember, you’ll also be recovering from UFE. And a full recovery could take up to 2 weeks. Then, over the weeks that follow, you should see symptoms–and your fibroids–disappear.

Ready to forget those harmful fibroid myths and get answers to your important treatment questions? Our Houston fibroid specialists are here to help. Simply reach out to our office and schedule a fibroid treatment consultation. We’ll help you understand your diagnosis. And, together, we’ll decide if you’re a good candidate for UFE.

Sources: Mayo Clinic

 

#WCW: Period Poverty and Period 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. And the number one symptom to never ignore? 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.

In fact, seeing that survey 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.

 

Sources: Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, Tampa Bay Times

5 Ways to Get Rid of Painful Period Cramps

One of the worst parts of your monthly cycle is painful period cramps. For many women, the arrival of your period means the start of painful cramping. Sometimes, those cramps are so intrusive, they keep you from going through your daily activities. In fact, according to an Australian survey, 3 out of 10 girls skip at least one class a month because of period pain.

(If that’s your situation, and your period is also very heavy, you may have uterine fibroids. Be sure and talk to your healthcare provider.) And, we also want you to remember this fact. No matter what’s causing your menstrual cramps, relief may be available sooner (and easier) than you’d think. Try our top five tips for getting rid of period cramps!

Medical and Lifestyle Interventions That Can Help Manage Period Cramps

Depending on how bad your period pain is, one or more of these tips can help you feel better:

1.       Heat therapy. Try putting a heating pad on your lower abdomen. If that’s not an option, relax into a warm bath. Both these options should help relax your uterine muscles, easing those cramps and alleviating much of your discomfort.

2.       Get your sweat on. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins—hormones that naturally make you feel good and can help battle pain. If you’re able to get to the gym for a few 45 min- 1 hour sessions in the initial days of your periods, your cramping discomfort will likely calm down. But remember, if you have fibroids, you may need to change your workout a bit. Here are the best ways to exercise with fibroids. So you can get period relief and fibroid relief while you explore your treatment options!

3.       Self-care. Though not helpful for everyone, many women find relief from menstrual pain through massage and acupuncture. And, while we can’t attest to scientific evidence that these treatments help, if they work for you then there’s no harm in trying!

4.       OTC (over-the-counter) meds. If your period pain is strong (but not debilitating) you may find relief from drugs like:
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
Naproxen (Aleve)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

5.       Treat your fibroids. If non-cancerous uterine tumors are causing your painful periods, treatment should give you a permanent solution to your cramps. At our office, we offer a minimally-invasive option known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE.) Talk to your healthcare provider, or schedule a consult with our Houston fibroid specialists, to see if UFE is right for you!

Sources: The Conversation

5 Reasons Why Sex Hurts (And How to Talk about It)

Too many women ask why sex hurts? Did you know that one out of every five women experiences pain during intercourse? And three out of four women will experience pain during sex at least once in her life? But did you also know that this common problem is on you shouldn’t have to live with?

If you are experiencing painful sex (dyspareunia) it’s important to see your healthcare professional and seek treatment. Before you can seek treatment, however, you need to know what’s causing your pain. So, let’s take a look: what are some common triggers of painful sex?

5 Reasons Why Sex Hurts

1. Hormones

Certain hormonal changes, like the ones that come when you breastfeed or enter menopause, can leave you with vaginal dryness. If this is the case for you, adding lubricant can help make intercourse comfortable again.

2. Medical Conditions

There are several health problems that can make sex extremely painful. Some of the most common causes for painful sex include Uterine fibroids , Endometriosis, Pelvic inflammatory disease, IBS and Sexually transmitted infections.

3. Tight Muscles

If you’ve never been able to have sex without pain, you may have primary vaginismus, a condition in which the muscles of your vaginal canal spasm during intercourse, making penetration painful, if not impossible.

4. New Muscle Spasms

If painful sex is new to you, you still may have vaginismus. But your vaginal spasms could be triggered by secondary vaginismus if you’ve previously been able to enjoy sex without pain. This is a condition that impacts between 5 and 17% of women. And, while there’s no clear cause for this condition, it is often triggered by a difficult labor and delivery process, a vaginal infection or endometriosis.

5. Burning issues

Some women experience burning pain in their vaginal openings. If there’s no clear trigger for this pain you will likely be diagnosed with vulvodynia. Many women with this condition are in so much pain, they aren’t even able to use tampons without discomfort.

Discussing Painful Sex with your Partner Results after UFE

When sex hurts, it’s hard for you. But it’s also hard on your partner and your relationship. If you’re dealing with this problem, intimacy is still possible. You and your partner just need to talk openly and honestly. Here are some tips for making that conversation easier.

First off, you should dedicate a specific time to talk. Remove all distractions like phones so you can truly focus on each other. Next, explain as much as you know about what’s causing your painful sex. You could talk about the physical and emotional impact, and emphasize that as a result, you are less interested in sex, not in your partner.

Also, if it’s helpful, bring your partner to your doctor’s appointment, so he or she can bring up questions and concerns. This could also help you feel like a united team.

Telling Your Doctor About Sex That Hurts

Let’s face it: women are tough. Often, you’re willing to put up with discomfort. And you might even get used to that pain. So you stop wondering why sex hurts, and just think that’s your normal life.

Of course, sex should feel good. But how can you tell when painful sex is a temporary issue, or when it’s a problem worth discussing with your doctor? Here are 5 ways you can tell that pain during sex could be a medical problem.

  1. The pain isn’t just mild. It really hurts, and sex hurts almost every time you engage in intercourse.
  2. The pain is worse when penetration is deep. (This is a good clue you’re dealing with fibroids.)
  3. It also hurts when you pee. (That could mean you’ve got an infection that needs immediate attention.)
  4. Lubrication doesn’t make things feel better.
  5. You’re avoiding sex or worrying sex hurting is impacting your relationship.

If any of these issues sounds familiar, it’s time to ask your doctor why sex hurts? And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get some good answers, and reach the stage where sex feels good again.

How Can I Put a Stop to Painful Sex

With the right diagnosis and treatment plan, sex should stop hurting. In order to get that diagnosis, be open with your partner and your healthcare provider. And if you realize that uterine fibroids are to blame for your painful intercourse, seeking treatment should help you enjoy intimacy once again. But, before seeking that treatment, make sure you consider all your treatment options: especially minimally invasive treatments like Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Because, when fibroids impact your sex life, making an appointment with our Houston area fibroid specialists can help you find relief, and rediscover the joy of intimacy.

Sources:  American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Australian Study of Health and Relationships, womenshealth.au

7 Ways to Relieve Fibroid Pain

If you have fibroid symptoms, we know you’re looking for ways to relieve fibroid pain. After all, once you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, it can take time for you to decide on the best course of treatment. But, during that time, you may still be experiencing symptoms like pelvic pain, heavy periods, constipation, frequent urination or painful sex.  So, if you need to find some fibroid pain relief while determining the next steps in your treatment plan, try any or all of these tips to help find some medical or natural forms of relief from fibroid symptoms.

New Medication to Relieve Fibroid Pain

The US FDA is currently investigating a new combination pill that drastically reduces heavy periods caused by fibroids. Called relugolix, the drug combines estrogen and progestin. And, in studies conducted by manufacturer Myovant Sciences, the combo pill effectively reduced heavy menstrual bleeding.

For the study, researches recruited 770 women with fibroids and heavy periods. Each woman was randomly assigned to take the drug or a placebo. Every day, for six months. Then, at the end of the trial, over 70% of the women taking relugolix saw dramatic bleeding reductions. And, unlike other fibroid drugs, relugolix didn’t lower women’s bone density.

Of course, that’s a big plus for women who worry about osteoperosis. Still, if approved, the pill would be very expensive. And, because it blocks hormonal production, women would have to go off their medications in order to get pregnant. Also, because these fibroid drugs can impact other areas of women’s health, they aren’t meant to be long-term treatments. Which is why women may prefer non-pharmacologic ways to relieve fibroid pain.

Relieve Fibroid Pain Without Drugs

1.       Put aside the processed foods. We know how much you love your oreos, twinkies and other packaged  goodies, but here’s the deal: these processed foods are full of chemicals that can increase inflammation in the body. And inflammation can trigger more pain and a worsening of your existing symptoms.

2.       Same goes for refined sugar. Refined sugars—the ones like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup that are added to food items like cookies, cakes and cereals—promote inflammation and weight gain. We’ve already touched on the dangers of inflammation, but weight gain may actually be a bigger problem when it comes to fibroids, as extra pounds can lead to hormonal imbalances, and both of those conditions increase your fibroid risk.

3.       Ditch the alcohol. Like our previous two offenders, alcohol can lead to inflammation and weight gain. Putting down the spirits may help prevent your existing fibroids from expanding, and may help protect you from the development of new tumors.

4.       Grab those leafy greens. When you have fibroids, spinach and lettuce should be your new best friends. Their anti-inflammatory powers can really help keep the growth and symptoms of these non-cancerous tumors in check.

5.       Add some crunchy veggies, too. Foods like broccoli and cauliflower have been shown to help prevent fibroids from developing.

6.       Break a sweat. Exercise can help tamp down inflammation in the body. It can also help with weight control and hormonal balance. Plus, it releases feel-good endorphins that can make it easier to cope with painful fibroid symptoms.

Remember, none of these options will treat your fibroids. Because all they can do is target your fibroid symptoms. So, if you want to say goodbye to fibroids, you’ll need to seek treatment that targets the actual growths. And, here at Houston Fibroids, we invite you to book a consultation with our experts. Together, we can review all your treatment options, and help decide if Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is right for you!

Sources: New England Journal of Medicine

Why You Can’t Ignore Pink Vaginal Discharge

For women, vaginal discharge is part of a normal monthly cycle. It changes in amount, color and texture at different times in the month. But when that color changes to pink, it could be a sign of a bigger problem brewing. Keep reading to learn more.

Mid-Cycle Spotting or Menstruation?

If you notice mid-cycle vaginal discharge, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Is it your period coming early? Or is it discharge? Here’s where paying attention to color can help you get a better picture of your health.

You see, period blood is usually dark-red. In contrast, spotting shows up more like pink vaginal discharge. If you’re spotting, the discharge will also be less heavy. And it should come and go, instead of lasting for a few days.

When does spotting usually occur? There are several times in your cycle when you could expect to spot. Typically, spotting will occur when you release an egg, because your estrogen levels drop at that moment. You also may spot just before ovulation, or right after ovulation. If spotting develops after your ovulation, it could also mean you’re pregnant (this is called implant bleeding.)

Now, these are all times when spotting is a normal part of your menstrual cycle. But, sometimes, pink discharge is a sign of an underlying health condition. And if that’s the case, it’s best to see your doctor right away.

Pink Vaginal Discharge and Your Health

Pink vaginal discharge usually contains trace amounts of blood. And bleeding outside of your period could be a sign of a problem.

If you are experiencing pink discharge, you should see your doctor right away. The color and spotting could mean that you have:

  1. Uterine Fibroids. Pink discharge could indicate that you are spotting (bleeding outside of your period), and fibroids (non-cancerous tumors) are known to cause abnormal bleeding. So if you are regularly seeing pink outside of your period, it is worth discussing a fibroid screening with your OBGYN.
  2. Uterine Polyps. Like fibroids, polyps are non-cancerous growths. But while fibroids develop in or on your uterus, polyps develop in endometrial tissue before extending into the uterus. If pink discharge comes after sex, it could be a sign you have polyps, since intercourse can bump these growths, causing some blood to mingle with your discharge.
  3.  Ovarian cysts. These are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries. When they resolve on their own, cysts don’t typically cause symptoms. But when they keep growing and become large, they may cause abnormal bleeding–and pink discharge!
  4. Infections. Pink discharge could also be a sign of an infection in your vagina. Potential causes could be an STI (sexually transmitted infection) or vaginitis.
  5.  Pregnancy, including ectopic. When a fertilized egg implants itself in your uterine wall, you may bleed a little, causing pink discharge. (See above, where we discuss implant bleeding.) But when that egg implants outside your uterus, in your fallopian tubes, pink discharge will also likely appear, along with other symptoms like sharp pain, dizziness, weakness and even fainting.
  6. Cervical Cancer. With this issue, the color of your discharge matters less than the change in its nature. Abnormal discharge is a warning sign of cervical cancer. Especially if it’s watery or smells like fish. Or accompanied by other cancer warning signs like edema (leg swelling), abdominal bloating, painful urination and overall fatigue.

Because pink discharge could indicate so many different conditions, it’s important to bring up this change with your doctor. The only way to know the cause is to investigate with your medical care provider.

What about Pink Menstrual Blood? pink period flow isn't always typical

Sometimes, pink discharge isn’t a between-periods problem. At certain points during your period, your flow may become thin, light and pale pink instead of red in color. Often, this is a normal development. Your flow tends to be lighter at the end of your period. And many women experience a light, pale flow in the first day of their periods, too.

Other times, however, this change in color could mean you have a health problem. If you have low estrogen levels, your period flow may appear more pink than red. Or, if it’s just a lighter red, almost diluted, it could be a sign of anemia. And, since anemia is a common side effect of fibroids, this should be a sign it’s time to see your gynecologist.

Now, we know that some of these changes in your discharge or flow may be subtle. So we don’t want you to spend your time analyzing your personal rainbow of colors. Instead, try this advice as a guideline. Pay attention to your body’s personal ‘normal.’ Then, if you notice a change that seems out of the ordinary, bring it up with your doctor at your next check up, just to rule out problems. Just remember: if any of these changes cause you severe pain, or interfere with your daily life, don’t wait around for your next annual visit. Instead, schedule an appointment with your Houston fibroid specialists right away: you should never wait around for help!

 

Sources: Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology, Medical News Today, yourtango.com, Baby Gaga

Stress, Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibroid Risk: What You Need to Know

What do stress, vitamin d deficiency and fibroids have in common? Well, they’re all getting a lot more attention during the pandemic!

After all, even in normal times, life is stressful. But when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic? That stress is multiplied and magnified to entirely new levels. Plus, we’re all spending more time indoors, so our risk goes up for vitamin d deficiency. (Which could also increase your risk for serious COVID-19, according to current research.)

Of course, these are problems for so many reasons. But, for our purposes, we’ll just focus on one: stress and vitamin d deficiency may increase your fibroid risk. In a minute, we’ll explore this idea further. First, however, we’ll give you a quick fibroid overview so we’re all on the same page.

What are fibroids? Female with Fibroids

Fibroid tumors are firm, muscular, uterine growths. We classify (and name them)  based on their location in or on your uterus. If they’re inside your uterus, they’re called submucosal. When they grow on your outer uterine surface, they’re subserosal. Fibroids in the muscles of your uterine wall are intramural, and fibroids that grow like stalks outside your uterus are pedunculated.

Fibroids also vary widely in size. Some are so small they go undetected, or cause no symptoms. But others are much larger, or develop in groups. When this happens, you’re likely to experience troubling symptoms such as pain, heavy periods, anemia, pregnancy complications or even infertility. That’s why we recommend treating your fibroids with a minimally invasive procedure such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. And it’s also why we’re helping you understand why you get fibroids in the first place.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Other Risks: Why do Fibroids Develop?

Unfortunately, we don’t truly know what causes fibroid development. But we do know they impact black women more than any other group. (By the age of 50, 70% of white women have fibroids. But 80% of black women have them at the same age.)

Lots of things affect your fibroid risk. Current research  suggests that stress may be associated with an increased fibroid risk. Also, research now suggests that vitamin d deficiency could increase your risk for fibroids. When working properly, your body’s vitamin d stores produce an anti-fibroid effect by reducing certain chemicals that seem to trigger fibroid growth. This factor, in addition to other factors we’ve already identified, including family history, and exposure to the chemicals within hair relaxers, could help explain why black women more often get fibroids. Because, vitamin d deficiency is 10 time more prevalent in Black women than in white women!

In combination, these factors can help you understand your fibroid risk. And understanding that stress increases your risk means now is a good moment to check in with your reproductive health. If you notice symptoms such as pelvic pain, frequent urination, or long and/or heavy periods, don’t wait. Seek help right away from a fibroid specialist. Don’t want to leave your house? No problem! Our Houston Fibroids team still offers remote fibroid consultations, via the secure Doxy platform. But we can also see you in our office if you need a procedure. Now, what kind of procedure will depend on your selected treatment preference. So let’s explore your best fibroid treatment plans.

How Should I Treat Fibroids?

All too often, you’ll hear that hysterectomy is the best fibroid treatment. But that’s actually not true for every woman. In fact, many women can find relief from fibroid symptoms with UFE, a minimally invasive procedure which cuts off fibroid blood supply. This effectively kills the tumors. All without surgery, and all while preserving your uterus!

Of course, some women may prefer a myomectomy—the surgical removal of individual fibroids. If this is your choice, just exercise caution. If your doctor wants to perform laparoscopic surgery, just say no to morcellators. They majorly increase your risk for uterine cancer.

What we really want you to understand is this. We’re living in stressful times. And that can hurt your health in so many ways. But don’t feel like you need to delay treating pressing health issues, just to avoid Coronavirus. There are real, concrete ways we can help you manage fibroids, all while preserving social distancing. So, if you’re in pain, reach out for help. Request an appointment with our fibroid specialists and we’ll put you on the path to relief. All while protecting you from unnecessary surgeries!

 

Sources: Seminars in Reproductive Medicine , Journal of Women’s Health Issues. Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

Help for Painful Sex and the Emotional Cost of Fibroids

Do you need help for painful sex? If you have fibroid tumors, sexual intercourse might hurt. Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors. They come in different sizes, and can also form in different portions or layers of the uterus. If your fibroids develop near your cervix, they can make certain sexual positions incredibly painful. You may feel like avoiding sex entirely. And, in some cases, those fibroids near your cervix may cause post-intercourse bleeding. Female with Fibroids

All of these effects are challenging. But there’s good news. First of all, certain positions can help. And, science is working on more treatments for painful sex. This could eliminate the problem entirely, and not just for women with fibroids.

Sexual Positions that Relieve Fibroid Pain

When you have fibroids, remember that sex isn’t only about penetration. You can still enjoy other intimate connections. But you can also choose positions which limit depth of penetration. By doing so, you’ll avoid pressure on fibroids near your cervix, which should limit pain during and after intercourse.

While we won’t get into specifics right here, you can explore this article from Cosmopolitan magazine. It highlights 5 positions to try if you experience pain with intercourse.

Medical Help for Painful Sex

Of course, women with fibroids are not the only ones who experience painful intercourse. According to a study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, evidence suggests that women with chronic sexual pain who were given Gabapentin (a fibromyalgia drug also used to target oral nerve pain) experienced relief from sexual pain.

The women included in this study had a condition known as vulvodynia, a chronic problem characterized bu stinging, burning and itching at the entry to the vagina. The condition is often worsened by sexual intercourse, or even by the use of tampons.

With the fibromyalgia drug Gabapentin, the 230 women included in the study experienced less pain; their arousal and sexual satisfaction levels also improved. Of course, the pain of vulvodynia does not have the same underlying cause as the pain of fibroids, but one factor does unite the two issues: tightness and discomfort in the pelvic region. Gabapentin appears to help women by alleviating pelvic pain, a symptom experienced by many women with fibroids. Results after UFE

Addressing the Emotional Cost of Fibroids

Now, the symptoms of fibroids aren’t just physical. They also take a big toll on women emotionally. And there’s a study to prove that fact!

According to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, having fibroids is as much of a social and emotional challenge as it is to live with heart disease, diabetes or even breast cancer!

The findings are based on a comprehensive review of 57 earlier fibroid studies. And they suggest that living with fibroids dramatically lowers your quality of life. They also noted that fibroids could be considered a disability, because of their impact on mental health and social functioning. Not to mention the physical pain and disrupted sexual relationships that often come along for the ride with a fibroid diagnosis.

Pain Management Vs. Problem Solving

Not all women are ready to treat their fibroids immediately after receiving a diagnosis. And that’s why we’re helping you manage painful sex while you wisely research all your treatment options. Doing so will help you decide which course of action is best for your long term health and fertility goals. For women like these, who decide to lay surgical or non-invasive fibroid treatments like UFE, finding new ways to manage symptoms like painful intercourse will be very important.

Sources: Cosmopolitan Magazine, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Got Cramps between Periods? This Could Be the Problem

If you’ve got cramps between periods, this read is for you! Pretty much every woman on earth has experienced cramps at some point. You know the feeling: that throbbing pain in your lower abdomen, ranging from mildly uncomfortable to something severe enough that it keeps you from your daily life.

Typically, women experience cramps before or during their periods. These cramps are directly tied to your hormones: they set it caused when Prostaglandin (a lipid hormone) causes your uterine muscles to contract.  Called primary dysmenorrhea, the purpose of these types of cramps is to help your body get rid of its unfertilized egg and your uterine lining. And while uncomfortable, these primary cramps don’t last long—they typically resolve between 48 and 72 hours after they first begin.

But sometimes, you get cramps after your period is done; other times, cramps start up, but no period follows. These cramps are obviously not connected to  menstruation, so they are known as secondary dysmenorrhea. Sometimes, these secondary cramps are no big deal—it could be a sign of a minor stomach bug or other irritation. But other times, secondary cramps are a sign of an underlying medical condition. And, today, we’ll focus of one possible cause of secondary dysmenorrhea: uterine fibroids.

Cramps Between Periods and Fibroids

Before explaining the connection between cramps and fibroids, you need to know exactly what fibroids are (and aren’t. Fibroids are tumors that can form anywhere in your uterus. They are NOT cancerous, although a small minority of women will discover they also have cancer when treating their fibroids.

Some women’s fibroids aren’t symptomatic. Other women experience a range of symptoms. How many or how severe those symptoms will be have a lot to do with the, size, location and number of tumors developing in your uterus.

In addition to secondary cramping, fibroids can cause symptoms such as:

  • Spotting between periods
  • Heavy menstrual periods, some severe enough to require transfusions
  • Long periods
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • A frequent need to pee, and/or difficulties when you go
  • Constipation
  • For some women, becoming or remaining pregnant will also be difficult with fibroids.

 

Other Reasons You Get Non-Menstrual Cramps

Not all cramps between periods are tied to fibroids. Here are other reasons you might get cramps that aren’t tied to your menstrual cycle:

Ovarian cyst

If you have an ovarian cysts (a small, fluid-filled growth in your ovaries) you could experience intense lower belly cramps. These cysts are common, and your OBGYN can help you diagnose this condition. But don’t wait too long to seek help. If a cyst ruptures, you could experience a medical emergency. In addition to cramps, fever or vomiting are symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst.

Pregnancy

Cramps could be normal your pregnancy. In the first trimester, your expanding uterus triggers mild cramping. Your second trimester brings muscle cramps as your body stretches to accommodate fetal growth. But both these cramps should be mild and occasional, If they’re strong or frequent, tell your OBGYN right away.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

This condition is usually tied to an sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. It’s a sign of infection in your reproductive organs, and it can cause painful cramps, fever, burning when you pee, and smelly discharge.

Inflammatory bowel disease

This chronic condition damages your digestive system. With IBD, its hard to digest food, and that triggers a range of symptoms. Abdominal pain and cramping is common, as are diarrhea, blood in your stool, loss of appetite, and weight loss. 

Endometriosis

This is a chronic disorder in which your uterine tissue grows outside your uterus. It’s often a cause of cramping between periods, but it also causes heavy periods and painful sex.

Diagnosing Cramping Between Periods

We hope this guide can help you determine the cause of your non-menstrual cramps. But we also hope you talk to your doctor about all your symptoms. That way, you can get the right diagnosis, and be on your way to relief.

Remember, it’s often your other symptoms that can help you get a diagnosis. Because fibroids can cause many painful symptoms, in addition to cramping between periods. Which is why so many women choose to treat their tumors. And, for many women, non-invasive treatment options like Uterine Fibroid Embolization will provide relief from symptoms! If you suspect you have fibroids, or have a diagnosis already, call our Houston fibroid specialists today to see if UFE is right for you!

Sources: Insider

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