Category: Fibroid Symptoms

How Long Does a Period Last?

2How long does a period last? And does the length of that period have implications for your health? Well, abnormally long or heavy periods can be a sign that you have uterine fibroids. But, since every woman’s body is different, you may wonder: how long does your period last if you’re healthy? Let’s take a closer look.

How Long Does a Period Last: Average Ranges

Of course, every woman’s menstrual cycle is different. Generally speaking, however, your cycle begins on the first day of one period and ends on the first day of the next. This cycle usually lasts between 21 to 35 days.

For the first few years after you get your period, you may have long cycles; these will likely shorten and become more regular as you get older. Your estrogen levels also begin to decline as you age, so it’s not uncommon to experience shorter, lighter and less regular periods even before menopause begins. Barring the natural aging process, here are some changes you should recognize as signs to talk to your doctor.

What the Length of Your Period Means: Shorter Days

how long does a period last
If your period lasts too long, make an appointment with your doctor: it could mean you have fibroids!

A normal period can last from two to seven days, but most women have periods that last three to five days. If your period is very short, it could be a sign that your estrogen levels are low. If you don’t produce enough estrogen, the lining of your womb won’t be very thick so, when it’s time for it to shed, the process won’t take very long.

Your birth control (hormonal or an IUD), weight loss, intense exercise schedule and/or stress could also impact and shorten the length of your period.

Other medications can impact your period, too. Pre-menopausal hormone therapy can affect your cycle. Thyroid medications can affect your period length and your cycle, as can anti-depressants and medications for epilepsy.

What Makes it Longer

If your period lasts longer, hormonal imbalances could also be to blame. Conditions that can cause hormone imbalances include: polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), diabetes and thyroid conditions. Extreme weight gain can also throw off your hormones.

Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous, muscular tumors), can also make your periods longer and heavier, as can polyps, (Small, benign growths on the lining of the uterus).

If your heavy, late period is a one-time thing, it may actually be due to a miscarriage. Uterine and cervical cancers can also make you have heavier than normal periods.

Finally, some medications can make your periods longer and heavier. Potential culprits include: anti-inflammatories, estrogen and progestin supplements, and anticoagulants such as Warfarin. Even if you’re on a preventative aspirin regimen, that can make your periods longer and heavier.

As always, it’s important to remember that your normal period won’t be identical to your friends’, mom’s or sister’s. But if your personal normal period has changed and your’re concerned, talk to your doctor right away. Then, if fibroids seem to be the problem, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists.

 

Sources: RSVPlive.com

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.

Going further, the study suggests that having fibroids may become a disability because these growths cause bodily pain, along with challenges to mental health, social function and your sex life. In fact, according to study contributor Dr. James R Segars, “For some women, the unpredictability and intensity of the heavy bleeding and related symptoms associated with the condition go beyond an inconvenience. Many women suffer in silence, and feel they can’t go out or be social because they may start bleeding at any time.”

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

What Causes Pelvic Pain? You Don’t Have to Check TikTok for Answers

What causes pelvic pain? Unfortunately, many conditions—including fibroids—can trigger this symptom. Equally troubling? Lots of women, especially women of color, don’t get enough time with or information from their doctors. And that’s why a new survey from the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology reveals that some of these women are seeking answers in unexpected places. Let’s take a closer look.

What Causes Pelvic Pain? The Search for Answers what causes pelvic pain

Several different conditions can lead to chronic pelvic pain. Among the top culprits? Fibroids, endometriosis and adenomyosis. But what else do these conditions have in common? They often come with delayed diagnoses. And women who discuss their symptoms with doctors are often dismissed or ignored.

Maybe that’s why this new survey revealed that patients with chronic pelvic pain were twice as likely to use social media to understand or manage their condition than those without pain. In fact, 37.8% of women with pelvic pain sought health answers online compared to 19.7% of women living without this disruptive symptom.

The survey authors explain, “Social media is increasingly becoming a health resource for people suffering from complex and debilitating health conditions.” And that’s a problem because the internet doesn’t have all the answers.

Who’s Researching Pelvic Pain Online?

Who were the women involved in this research? Well, the study followed 517 women who presented with a new complaint of pelvic pain between February 2018 and April 2019. Each participant visited a gynecologist at either the Cleveland Clinic Florida, Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Science University, Scripps San Diego, Vanderbilt or the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (Each of these hospitals offers minimally invasive gynecologic treatments.)

Now, you already know that women with pelvic pain hit the internet for answers at a higher rate. But that wasn’t the survey’s only important finding. In fact, it turns out that women in the pelvic pain group were more likely to become highly engaged with social media.

First, almost 40% of women with pain used social media as a way to cope with their discomfort. They had more trust for information they found on social media. They were also motivated by interpersonal engagement when they were online, while preferring interactive elements to their searches.

Likewise, these women had more trust for other women with similar symptoms, and they were less likely to trust doctors and formal health resources. All in all, this suggests that hearing and asking questions about other women’s treatment journeys could really matter to women who want to know, what causes pelvic pain.

As interventional radiologists offering minimally invasive fibroid treatments, that last fact matters a lot. Because, we can shout about UFE from the rooftops. But we know you’ll hear it better from women who have lived through your experience. And that’s why we highlight our #WCW series whenever possible. Which, as it turns out, goes right along with what the study authors recommend.

Giving Women Answers Online and in the Office

The study revealed how hard it still is for women to answer, what causes pelvic pain? In fact, women in the pain group saw an average of just under 3 physicians before getting a diagnosis. And that means we all have more work to do.

So, what do the study authors suggest? Here’s their takeaway message. “Our study suggests that higher social media use and engagement stems from medical needs unmet by the formal health care system.” And, to close that needs gap, doctors must create “a patient care environment in which both social media and formal care can exist together.” This, they say, will lead to better patient outcomes.

Luckily, this is nothing new to our Houston area fibroid experts. We want to help you find out what causes pelvic pain for you, so we meet you on Facebook and Pinterest to share medical answers alongside other women’s fibroid journey stories. Then, because we know you’ll still have questions, we always invite you into the office—or onto our Telehealth platform—for a comprehensive consultation.

Reference

American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Published online November 6, 2021.

 

Fibroids During Pregnancy: Impacts on Fertility

Are you worried about fibroids during pregnancy? Those non-cancerous tumors made up of cells and muscle  can be a quirky lot. Many women with uterine fibroids have no symptoms whatsoever, and some never even know they have them. Others have painful and heavy periods and struggle with discomfort. With all these disparate situations you may be wondering if and how fibroids can affect your fertility. And, if you do become pregnant, how your baby will develop with fibroids. And that was certainly the case for Love & Hip Hop Miami star Shay Johnson, our Woman Crush of the Week!

Continue reading “Fibroids During Pregnancy: Impacts on Fertility”

Learn Your Risk Factors for Fibroids, Plus Diagnosis and Effect Info

When it comes to your health, it’s important to know your risk factors for fibroids–plus what it means for your health if you get this diagnosis. Many women have heard about fibroids (benign tumors that develop in or on a woman’s uterus) but don’t know much more than the name. Here is our quick cheat sheet for really understanding these tumors:

What are Your Risk Factors for Fibroids?

Before we get started, we have to be clear: we still don’t the exact reason why women get fibroids. But, thanks to recent studies, we do have a clearer picture of what raises women’s fibroid risk.

First, we know that race plays a major role in your fibroid risk. While any woman can develop fibroids, the ones at highest risk: have a family history, are Black or Hispanic, and/or have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). In fact, according to a recent study in the BJOG Journal, black women have a two-threefold higher fibroid risk. That’s why about 70% of black women develop fibroids, according to the study. And it may be why European women have a lower fibroid risk than women in the U.S.: the racial mix in populations is very different.

Still, as more Caucasian women present with elevated BMIs, their fibroid risk has also increased. And we know, thanks to this study, 11 other factors that increase your fibroid risk. These include your age (risk decreases as you get older), premenopausal state, hypertension, family history and the time since your last birth. (Having more full-term pregnancies seems to decreases your fibroid risk. Breastfeeding could also impact your fibroid risk. That’s because your ovarian hormones decrease when you nurse. ) Smoking or consuming certain food additives or soybean milk may also increase your chances of getting fibroids.

In some cases, the use of oral contraceptives or the injectable contraceptive depot medroxyprogesterone acetate increased your fibroid risk. That’s not necessarily surprising, since we know that two things make fibroids grow: hormones, especially estrogen, and blood supply.

But, while some forms of birth control increase your fibroid risk, we can also often control fibroid growth with birth control pills. And, we can shrink the tumors by cutting off their blood supply using a procedure called UFE (uterine fibroid embolization.)

Genetic Fibroid Risks

We are constantly discovering other fibroid risk factors, and recently, scientists from the University of Helsinki uncovered a genetic link. After monitoring 728 women with 2263 tumors, researchers grouped their fibroids by  genetic variants.

For most women, these fibroids fell neatly into one of three. But a number of the fibroids didn’t fit into previously identified categories. Instead, they showed variations that cells’ histone activity. (Histones help shape and control genes.activity.)

After seeing this variation, the researchers discovered an inherited fibroid risk. Women with certain genetic mutations have a higher risk of developing tumors.  As a result, with more research, women with these mutations could receive counseling and regular fibroid screening. In that way, it could be easier to detect and diagnose any developing growths in their earliest stages.

New Genetic Test for Fibroids: If My Mother Had Fibroids Will I Get Them?

A new study in Human Genetics identified certain gene combinations that point towards your risk factors for fibroids. Having highlighted this grouping, doctors could screen patients for these genes. Then, they could avoid delaying a fibroid diagnosis. So that women wouldn’t have to suffer for years without relief.

After studying the test results of almost 500 women with fibroids, researchers compared their genetic markers to women without these growths. Here’s what they found. There are 30 specific genetic chromosomal locations that can be linked to an increased fibroid development risk. Now that we know their connection, if your mother or grandmother had fibroids, you can ask doctors to screen you for these markers. Then, if you have any, you may reach a fibroid diagnosis faster if you start displaying any symptoms.

How Can I Confirm my Fibroid Diagnosis? heavy periods change your life

If you are experiencing fibroid symptoms like heavy periods, pelvic pain, incontinence or constipation, your doctor may check you for fibroids. Usually, you’ll be diagnosed with a pelvic exam and a pelvic sonogram. You may need a transvaginal sonogram to determine if the fibroid has affected your uterine lining.

As soon as you’ve been diagnosed, you’ll need to consider your treatment options. And remember that you do have options: not all fibroid diagnoses will end in surgery. In fact, there are minimally invasive fibroid treatments that can help you find relief. But the option you choose will largely depend on the type of symptoms you’re currently experiencing.

How will Fibroids Impact my Life?

Once you know you have fibroids, you have lots of options. If you aren’t bothered by symptoms, you may just monitor the tumor(s). With fibroids that are small, birth control, diet and exercise may keep them from causing you pain. But if pregnancy is important to you, the location of your fibroids will also be important. Fibroids that grow in the uterine cavity or block the fallopian tubes may affect your fertility.

If symptoms or infertility send you in search of relief, it’s important to research all your treatment options. While some doctors may recommend surgery (myomectomy or hysterectomy), we like to explore less invasive options. To learn more about non-surgical fibroid treatments schedule a consult today with our Houston area fibroid experts.

Sources: International Journal of Fertility and SterilityBJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

4 Reasons Why you Might Get Your Period Twice a Month

Most women have a menstrual cycle that lasts between 24 and 38 days. In some cases, that just means you have a cycle that’s on the shorter end. But some conditions can affect your cycle, meaning you might get your period twice a month. So, if you’re wondering, “why did I get my period twice in one month,” the answer could be more complex. And, to help you figure out what’s causing your irregular period, here are four conditions that could trigger two or more monthly menstrual cycles.

Getting a Period Twice a Month with Uterine Fibroids period twice a month

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in or on your uterus. Still, these growths can cause several unpleasant symptoms, including painful, heavy periods or bleeding between cycles. For that reason, if you get your period twice a month, but also have pelvic pain, heavy cycles or these other fibroid symptoms, uterine growths could be responsible for getting a period twice in one month.

Why Do I Get my Period Twice a Month? Endometriosis

Endometriosis can also cause changes in your menstrual cycle. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between endometriosis and fibroids, because they cause similar symptoms. But, with endometriosis, your pain develops when uterine tissue forms in other parts of your body. Then, you may notice stomach pain, pelvic pain, heavy periods and bleeding between periods. At that point, it may seem like you’re menstruating more than once a month.

As we mentioned, diagnosis endometriosis is difficult. While your doctor may notice endometrial tissue on an ultrasound, you’ll need a small surgical procedure to get an accurate diagnosis.

Pre-Menopausal Cycle Changes

When a woman enters menopause, that means she hasn’t had a period for one full year. But, in the months or years leading up to menopause, called perimenopause, your cycle goes through many changes. Some months, you may not have a period at all. (Or your flow could be very light.) At other times, your cycle may shorten, so it seems like you’re menstruating more than once in a 30 day period.

Hormonal Changes

If your thyroid isn’t working properly, this could impact your menstrual cycle. After all, the thyroid gland regulates hormone levels in your body. So, if it’s under or overactive, your hormones will fluctuate and your cycle may change soon afterward.

Similarly, if you suddenly gain weight, your cycle may change. And that’s because weight gain can contribute to changes in your estrogen levels, which could alter when and how your period shows up.

Stress

As many women learned during the COVID 19 pandemic, stress and changes in your sleep cycle impact your menstrual cycle. During that time, many women got their period twice a month—or even more often. Fortunately, when stress is a trigger, your body will usually reset once you can relax or adjust to your new normal.

As you can tell, so many things can make your period come twice a month. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell what’s causing the trouble on your own. So, how can you know when to worry?

Here’s the deal: you’re the person who best understands your body. For that reason, any cycle change that seems unusual to you is worth mentioning to your doctor. Are you concerned that fibroids could be give you a period twice a month? Reach out to our Houston area fibroid specialists and request an appointment. We’re here to discuss your symptoms and review all your fibroid treatment options.

 

Do I Have Fibroid Symptoms or Endometriosis?

Experiencing fibroid symptoms is 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.

But it’s also important to recognize that uterine fibroids and endometriosis can both cause similar symptoms. (Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue from your uterus, endometrium, grows in or on other parts of your body.) Like women with fibroids, women with endometriosis may experience heavy, painful periods as well as bleeding between periods. In some cases, people with endometriosis may find relief from cannabidiol, but this study suggests that the hemp extract doesn’t work for everyone. So you should exercise caution before addressing your symptoms this way without talking to your doctor.

In fact, the best way to diagnose the cause of your symptoms is to see your healthcare provider. But you can also narrow down the cause of your pelvic pain and heavy bleeding by better understanding your risk for developing fibroids.

Who is At Risk for Fibroid Symptoms? pain from uterine fibroids

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 your age (being over 40) and your weight, since obesity increases your risk. You should also learn your family history of fibroids, and understand that high blood pressure, or never having a pregnancy, could also increase your risk.

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.

Heavy periods are most common with intramural and submucosal fibroids. You may also pass large clots when you have fibroids. Over time, this heavy bleeding can cause health complications such as anemia.

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, they could cause swelling that is often mistaken as weight gain or pregnancy.

Even small fibroids can cause pressure, depending on their location. But this symptom could also indicate adenomyosis or endometriosis. So you should see your doctor at the first sign of pressure or pain in your pelvis.

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.

Reaching a Uterine Fibroid Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, or these additional fibroid symptoms, schedule an immediate 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. And, if your provider rules out fibroids as the cause of your symptoms, he or she may recommend further testing to confirm or rule out an endometriosis diagnosis.

Sources: Bioidentical Hormone Health

 

 

#WCW: Living with Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

When you’re dealing with uterine fibroids, you may also experience heavy menstrual bleeding. And your periods could last longer than the typical seven days. Obviously, this can be uncomfortable and, at times, inconvenient. But if you’re thinking that it’s just annoying, think again. As it turns out, heavy periods can actually affect other areas of your health.  heavy periods change your life

Recently, one woman spoke to Popsugar about heavy periods making them miss work and school. Did you know that up to 14% of women have to call in sick because of their periods? And a whopping 80% were less productive during menstruation, because of symptoms like cramps or pelvic pain?

Unfortunately, this is especially true for Black women. Because they are at higher risk for fibroids, they are also more likely to experience painful, heavy periods. But they are also less likely to face sympathetic physicians. That’s exactly what happened to 24-year-old Ariel, who bravely shared her experiences regarding that time of the month, making her our Woman Crush this week.

After months of extreme period pain, Ariel finally opened up to her doctor. Yet  she wasn’t taken seriously. “You see this happen way too often to Black women,” Ariel told POPSUGAR. “The time I did decide to tell a doctor about my period pain and nausea, I was prescribed ibuprofen and some medication for the nausea, which made me more nauseous.” According to her interviewers, she was never examined for fibroids or for other potential causes of her period pain.

As Houston fibroid specialists, we want to help women take control of their health. Which is why we’re here today, guiding you through symptoms. So you can know what’s normal, and when it’s time to see a specialist.

How Do I Know if My Periods Are Abnormal?

It’s easy to say that a heavy period could be cause for concern. But it can be difficult to quantify what “heavy” really means. Flow varies from woman to woman, so any major change could be problematic. As a general rule of thumb, however, your bleeding is excessively heavy if:

  • There are less than 21 days between your periods (longer than 35 days between cycles is also unusual, but this would not be considered a problem of excess bleeding)
  • Periods last longer than 7 days
  • You pass large clots during your period (anything bigger than the size of a quarter warrants a discussion with your doctor)
  • You’re losing more than 80 cc of blood. (Of course, no one expects you to actually measure your blood loss. But if you’re soaking through super tampons or pads in an hour or less, chances are you’re losing too much blood.)

My Period is Too Heavy – What Do I Do Now?

If you think that your periods are too heavy, talk to your doctor right away. Make an appointment with your gyno, even if it’s not time for your annual exam. Here’s why: heavy periods can lead to anemia, a condition that sets in when you don’t have enough iron in your blood. Anemia needs to be addressed immediately, because it can affect your body’s ability to carry oxygen to your extremities. Over time, it can also lead to iron deficiency which, in turn, can affect the body’s bone marrow response. Additionally, anemia can cause symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, pain, headaches, cold hands and feet or chest pain.

In fact, in some cases, women become so anemic, and their blood count falls so low, that they may lose consciousness or even have a heart attack or stroke. Clearly, it’s important to stop the heavy blood flow right away. To that end, your doctor may suggest oral birth control, or a hormonal IUD, to temporarily stop the severe blood loss. They may also suggest taking Oriahnn, the FDA-approved drug to stop fibroid-related heavy bleeding. Still, these are temporary band-aids to help you regain a healthy blood count. But you still need to address the underlying cause of your heavy menstrual bleeding to avoid such serious complications later on.

Once you mention heavy menstrual bleeding to your doctor, he or she will likely suggest an anemia screening, to make sure you’re staying ahead of the issue. But it’s also important to try and determine the cause of your heavy bleeding, or else your continued blood loss will likely keep you in an anemic state.

Fibroids and Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

Uterine fibroids can develop within the uterine lining (submucosal), the uterine muscle (intramural) or outside the uterine lining (subserosal.) Submucosal fibroids may increase the area of the lining, which gives you more blood to shed each month. These fibroids may also hinder your body’s ability to stop bleeding once it starts.

Intramural fibroids can increase the blood flow that reaches your uterus. They can also expand the size of your uterine cavity, thereby increasing bleeding.

If fibroids are causing your heavy flow, you’ll have to treat them to stop the excessive bleeding. Be sure and discuss all your treatment options, both surgical and minimally invasive, when deciding how best to address your fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding. And feel free to schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists, to see if uterine fibroid embolization is the right choice for you!

Sources: Popsugar, The Center for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, The Centers for Disease Control 

 

WCW: Jill Martin and Why Fibroids Cause Back Pain

Did you know that sometimes, fibroids cause back pain? If you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, you probably know that they are non-cancerous tumors that grow in your uterus. And, chances are, you experienced some fibroid symptoms before that diagnosis. Maybe your periods were really heavy. Or perhaps you experienced chronic pelvic pain.

But if your fibroid symptoms include back, leg and stomach pain, you might wonder: how could uterine growths hurt in so many other places?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Diffuse pain is a common fibroid symptom. And we’re here to help you understand how uterine fibroids spread symptoms to the rest of your body. And why fibroids cause back pain. But first, let’s talk about Today Show contributor Jill Martin. Because she just came forward talking about fibroid pain’s impact on her life.

Jill Martin’s Fibroid Journey Jill Martin fibroids cause back pain

A few months ago, NBC presenter Jill Martin started getting messages asking if she was pregnant. But she wasn’t. Instead, she had fibroids, and the size of her uterine growths made her look like she was carrying a baby.

Sadly, that wasn’t Jill’s only symptom. She experienced painful sex, and her fibroids also started causing body pain. For a while, she tried to push through the discomfort. Eventually, the pain increased to the point where she couldn’t come to work.

Fortunately, Jill researched her treatment options, and discovered Uterine Fibroid Embolization, or UFE. Now, shortly after treatment, she’s experiencing less pain and her bloating is improving. Plus, she’s sending an important message. Even when fibroids cause back pain or other disruptive symptoms, you have several pain-relief options. As she tells Today, “Before discovering this treatment, I thought the only way to fix my pain meant getting a hysterectomy. After talking with other women who suffer from fibroids, I realized I’m not alone — many of them thought that a major surgery to remove their uterus was their only real solution, too. But there are other options. And when you are in pain, more often than not, it is time to do something.”

How Fibroids Affect the Rest of Your Body pain from uterine fibroids

Like we said, you’re not alone with your fibroid-related back pain. In fact, a study in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility reported 60% of women with fibroids experience lower back pain, and 22% have stomach pain. Another 25% experience other abdominal problems, including diarrhea, constipation and/or bloating.

So, what’s the connection between your fibroids and all this widespread pain? Here’s the story:

Fibroids can change the shape of your uterus, making it press up against other parts of your body. Or, fibroids can grow outside your uterus, so the tumors themselves press against the nerves in your spine, or against your rectum or bladder. And, if any of that happens, well guess what? You’re likely to experience the types of symptoms we just mentioned.

For example, if your fibroid presses on a nerve or vein in your lower back area, your legs, hips, and back could all be affected. You might even experience leg swelling, or find it difficult to stand for long periods of time, if the fibroid presses on your blood vessels.

Relief from Fibroid Pain Without Surgery

When fibroid pain affects so many body parts, it can interfere with your daily life. If you’re in that position, you’re likely researching fibroid treatment options. And it’s important for you to know that surgery isn’t your only option.

While some women will choose to undergo myomectomy (surgical removal of fibroid tumors), you may wish to avoid this invasive procedure. If so, make sure you learn more about uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive procedure we perform at our Houston fibroids practice.

It’s often a better choice than hysterectomy, which triggers major side effects, including bone loss, memory loss

With this procedure, our physicians use catheters to access your fibroid’s blood supply, cutting off the flow with a permanent deposit of embolic material. After UFE, your fibroids shrink or even disappear completely. And once that happens, you will likely experience relief from back and leg pain, along with other unpleasant fibroid symptoms.

But that’s not all: because UFE is minimally invasive, you can avoid general anesthesia and likely won’t need to stay in the hospital overnight. And, because UFE only requires a small incision in your arm, your recovery time is much faster than with a procedure like hysterectomy or even myomectomy. Plus, UFE procedures have a very high success rate, meaning your relief should be lasting.

Ready to find out more? If you’re considering UFE, and aren’t sure if its right for you, we’re here to help. We provide consultations to help you learn more about your best fibroid treatment option. So make an appointment with us today!

Sources: USA Fibroid Centers, Journal of Fertility and Sterility

#WCW: WWE Star Needs Alternatives to a Hysterectomy

Recently, we learned that WWE star Naomi had a myomectomy, and we wish she could have found other alternatives to a hysterectomy. The fierce wrestler announced on her Instagram: “In the midst of hurricane Sally and COVID I also underwent an unexpected 6 hour surgery to finally remove a massive fibroid that’s caused me severe anemia fatigue horrible abdominal pains and more problems I don’t even want to mention over the past year and a half. I’m recovering well. I’m relieved and already feeling so much better. So family and fans don’t worry, I’m ok. Lol, miss ya.” WWE Naomi Talks about alternatives to a hysterectomy

First, let’s be clear: we’re happy Naomi found relief. And we applaud her as our Woman Crush of the week for bravely sharing her story. But we also wish she’d learned about other options before her fibroid got so large. Because we believe that there need to be more alternatives to fibroid surgery in this country. Too many women with fibroids—non-cancerous tumors of the uterus—get hysterectomies (complete uterus removal). In fact, fibroids are the top reason women in the U.S. get hysterectomies. Because it’s such a serious surgery, many women opt for less invasive fibroid treatments. In our office, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization, a non-surgical treatment that shrinks your fibroids.

Oral and Minimally Invasive Alternatives to a Hysterectomy

Recently, the FDA approved a new oral medication for women with fibroids, that’s expected to be available later this month. Called Oriahnn, the pill combines estrogen, progestin, and elagolix (a gonadotropin-releasing hormone). It’s important to note that this pill doesn’t shrink your fibroids. Instead, it decreases fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding.

How effective is this pill? A recent study highlights the effects of elagolix, just one piece of the new drug’s puzzle.  Over the course of two and a half years, they followed 433 women who had fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding. 67% of participating women were African American, since black women are disproportionately affected by fibroids.

oral alternatives to a hysterectomy

Women who took elagolix did get relief from heavy periods, but they also suffered hot flashes, night sweats, and bone loss. In contrast, 90% of the women who took a mix of elagolix, estradiol and norethindrone acetate (“add-back therapy”) experienced reduced blood loss, but with fewer side effects. The “Add-back” therapy combatted effects of stopping estrogen and progestin, as Oriahnn does. Some of these women saw their uterus size decrease. But their fibroids did not shrink.

Also, this pill won’t prevent pregnancy, even though it’s hormonal. And, studies note that taking the medication can cause long-term bone loss. Which means that you can’t take the pill for more than two years. That leads us to the question: what next? Unfortunately, once you stop taking this pill, your fibroid symptoms would return, sending you back to the start of your treatment journey. And, since they don’t want that journey to end in a hysterectomy, researchers at Michigan State University are trying to figure out why fibroids form in the first place. Because, in doing so, they hope to keep every woman from being pushed towards hysterectomy because of fibroid tumors.

Alternatives to a Hysterectomy: Stopping Menstruation with Medication

Another approach to managing heavy periods? Stopping your period with the help of an outside medication called goserelin. In some ways, this method is effective. By taking the drug, you can stop your period. So you can also stop blood loss, anemia and other fibroid-symptoms linked to heavy menstrual cycles.

But here’s the problem. A new study revealed that this approach hurts women more than it helps. Because, after just six months using this medication, most of the women developed osteoporosis. And the damage was irreversible.

Genes and Fibroids: The Newly Discovered Connection

In the course of this study, researchers at MSU’s College of Human Medicine discovered that HOXA13, a gene associated with fibroids, was connected to a process, known as homeotic transformation, that causes uterine muscle cells to turn into cells more typically found inside your cervix.

“It’s a cell type in a position where it doesn’t belong,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jose Teixeira said. “This was a surprise.”

Katy Fibroid Clinic
New research on fibroids could drastically reduce the number of women who are treated with hysterectomies.

But this discovery isn’t just informative: it could change the way we treat fibroids. Specifically, new treatments could target the chain of events that causes your cells to change. That way, you could treat existing tumors with less invasive treatments, such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Then, you could use molecular therapy to prevent any  new tumors from forming.

As Teixeira explains, “The discovery that fibroid tumors have characteristics of cervical cells could be a key to better treatments. For example, among pregnant women, the cervix typically softens just before delivery. Figuring out what causes the cervix to soften could suggest new therapies that soften the fibroid tumors and prevent or inhibit their growth.” And, if that works out, you could eliminate any hysterectomy discussions!

What’s Next for Fibroid Research?

While new therapies are still going to take a while, this research is already changing the way scientists study fibroids. Now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding a follow-up fibroid study.  It’s focus? Texeira says he wants to discover: “Is there a place where we can intervene? That’s the follow-up. If we can find out what’s causing the cervical softening, then we might be able to investigate treatment.” And that could stop fibroid growth before a tumor ever forms.

Sources: Bleacher Report, Harvard Health, National Library of MedicineFDA.Gov, Cell Reports Journal

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