Category: Fibroid Symptoms

Why You Need to Address Heavy Periods

When you’re dealing with uterine fibroids, your menstrual flow can become very heavy. Your periods may also last longer than the typical seven day window. Obviously, this can be uncomfortable and, at times, inconvenient. But if you’re thinking that you should just deal with the annoyance, think again. As it turns out, heavy periods can actually affect other areas of your health. 

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, excessively heavy bleeding is defined as: 

  • 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 that last longer than 7 days
  • Passing large clots during your period (anything bigger than the size of a quarter warrants a discussion with your doctor)
  • 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, chest pain and even heart attacks. 

Once you mention heavy 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 Periods

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 causes you to bleed more when it is 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, and can also expand the size of your uterine cavity, thereby increasing bleeding.

If fibroids are the cause of your heavy menstrual flow, you will need to treat your fibroids in order 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 mentrual flow. 

Sources: semcor.ubc.ca, The Center for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, cdc.gov, The Centers for Disease Control 

 

It’s Time to Speak Up About Period Symptoms!

According to a new Dutch study, many women who suffer from heavy, painful periods keep their suffering to themselves. Even when these symptoms affect their ability to live a normal life! 

After conducting a nationwide survey of 45,000, researchers found that 85% of the respondents experienced painful cramps during their periods. 77% had mood disorders, and 71% experienced near crippling exhaustion. And 33% of the respondents reported that these symptoms kept them from performing their daily activities. But among those 33% who had to cut back on their activities because of their periods, less than half told their doctors or family members the reason for their life changes. 

Lead study author Dr. Mark Schoep of Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands said, ““We think there is a taboo on menstrual symptoms, mainly because women think this is just a normal part of life, and they might feel it is not accepted to openly discuss this matter.”

Painful Periods Are NOT Normal

While mild cramping isn’t unusual during your period, symptoms that affect your daily life are a problem you should talk about with your doctor. In fact, menstrual symptoms can indicate serious complications, like uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis. If you don’t talk to your doctor about these symptoms, you may miss a diagnosis-and keep suffering for nor reason. 

“Women need to know that they should seek health care if they have menstrual symptoms that affect their daily life,” said Dr. Trine Stanley Karlsson of the University Hospital Karolinska in Stockholm, Sweden, who was also involved in the study.

At our Houston Fibroids center, we couldn’t agree more. We can help alleviate painful menstrual symptoms related to your fibroids: but only if you speak up! So stop keeping discomfort to yourself. The sooner you share your health information, the quicker we can get to work making you feel better. 

 

Are all fibroid tumors the same?

All fibroids, (also called myomas or leiomyomas) are non-cancerous growths of muscular tissues that develop in and on a woman’s uterus. Yet not all fibroids will develop in the same location, and not all of these tumors will cause the same symptoms. That’s why we tend to classify fibroids based on where they develop within a woman’s uterus. 

The Three Types of Fibroids

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

  • Pain
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Pressure

Fibroid Symptoms Based on Location

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

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

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

Regardless of where your fibroids are located, and no matter which symptoms you find most bothersome, relief is available, often without surgery. Contact our Houston area fibroid specialists to learn if you are a candidate for our minimally-invasive fibroid treatment

 

 

 

 

 

6 Ways to Ease Fibroid Pain

Once you have been diagnosed with fibroids, it can take some 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 pain during intercourse. So if you need to find some relief while determining the next steps in your treatment plan, try any or all of these tips to help find some natural forms of relief from fibroid symptoms:

Managing Fibroids 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.

WCW: Fibroid Treatment Leads to Cancer Discovery

When we celebrate our Woman Crush Wednesdays, we often highlight celebrities who used their public platforms to share a fibroid journey. But this week, we’re taking a slightly different direction. This week, we’re celebrating Dartinia Hull, an average woman whose fibroid journey helped uncover a far more serious medical problem: ovarian cancer. 

Dartinia is a 52 year old woman from Charlotte, NC, who recently penned an article about her story for Q City Metro’s website. Here is what she revealed: “

Three years ago, in yoga, I struggled to do a very basic move: up dog. It’s a stren

gth and balance move, and a counter to down dog, an upward backbend. It’s a move I sometimes nail and sometimes don’t, which is fine.

But as I lifted my upper body from the mat, my guts cramped, like my insides had twisted. I stood up and tried to walk off the cramp. That night, I rubbed the sore spot on my belly and felt a lump.”

Searching For Answers  

After that discovery, Hull knew something was wrong, so she went to see her doctor. While she’d assumed that the problem was an injury like a hernia, she was immediately told otherwise: Hull’s doctor revealed she had a large fibroid (a non-cancerous growth of muscular tissue within the uterus.) 

She then went to see her OB-GYN, who ordered an ultrasound and discovered that Hull had several fibroids. One of her ovaries had also shrunk to the point of disapearing. Because of her age and the size of her fibroids, Hull ultimately opted for a hysterectomy (something that many women can avoid if they seek alternative therapy options.) 

But when she went into surgery to remove her uterus, doctors discovered something even more frightening: one of the three growths they’d diagnosed as fibroids was actually a cancerous tumor. Hull says: “

When we thought I had three fibroids, we named them Curly, Larry and Moe. Moe was the largest, and actually, the cancer. They didn’t do a CT scan, which might not have found anything, anyway, because Moe hadn’t ruptured.

The symptoms can mimic peri-menopause. A woman can have extended, heavy periods, which are debilitating and can lead to low hemoglobin. She is often fatigued, sometimes forgetful, and can have bloating and gastrointestinal issues and either pelvic or abdominal pain. A woman can feel full after only a few bites, and experience pain during sex. These symptoms often appear gradually. Because the symptoms of OC are considered “vague,” this type of cancer is one of the more dangerous of all diseases. Often diagnosed at a later stage, it spreads quickly. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women, more so for black women because of later diagnosis, even though black women have a lower rate of ovarian cancer than white women.” 

Early Detection is Key

Thanks to Hull’s fibroid treatment, doctors were able to discover her cancer early enough in the game to allow for successful cancer treatment. Hull shared this article hoping that women will know that fibroid and cancer symptoms often overlap. And, in either case, they should not be ignored. Her message to other women is this: “If you notice symptoms (especially a lump in your abdomen), tell your OB-GYN or your primary care doctor. Even if you “just don’t feel right,” tell your doctors, and ask them to give you a pelvic exam.” Being that pushy patient just might be the decision that saves your life! 

Warning: Hidden Danger in African American Hair Products

Hair products–can’t live without ’em, right? Well, as it turns out, it also may not be wise to live with them. 

According to the Silent Spring Institute, certain hair products, especially those marketed to black women, are full of extremely harmful chemicals. Ever wondered why they smell so bad? It’s basically the poisons inside them, revealing their true nature through their scent. 

There’s much more science to back up this claim. A 2017 study by researchers at Rutgers University found a link between breast cancer and Black women’s use of hair relaxers. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology associated fibroid risk with the use of hair relaxers. Shirley McDonald of the Hair and Scalp Clinic says, “We now know that many hair products contain chemicals that are considered carcinogenic and/or hormone disrupters, leading to increased risk of medical issues such as fibroids (non-cancerous tumors that grow in the uterus, potentially damaging fertility and leading to a host of other complications). Trichologists see lots of conditions that are likely to be triggered by hair products, particularly central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, a type of permanent hair loss to the crown area of the scalp.”

Chemicals in Black Women’s Hair Products

Among the many dangerous substances in black women’s hair products? Cyclosiloxanes, nonylphenols (also found in certain detergents), and phthalates (also found in plastics, they are the main reason people are working to ban plastics from food containers.) Besides their toxicity, each of these chemicals share a common bond–they have all been linked to hormone disruption as well as an increased risk of developing fibroids, asthma, infertility, and even cancer. That’s a hefty price to pay for shinier hair. 

Throwing Flames on the Fire
Being exposed to these chemicals is particularly troubling for black women, as they already have a higher risk of developing fibroids than other populations of women. Family history plays a part in that risk but, more and more, certain hair products are also starting to shoulder the blame. According to the Silent Spring study mentioned earlier, 80% of Black hair products they tested contained “endocrine-disrupting and asthma-causing chemicals.” Products examined included by the study included relaxers, hot oil treatments, leave-in conditioners, and anti-frizz balms. The scariest statistic? Hair relaxers that specifically targeted children had the highest levels of chemicals; many of those chemicals have already been banned in the EU. 

Taking Action
While you can’t do anything about your family history, being selective about the hair products you choose can certainly go along way towards protecting your health. To find out more about dangerous hair care products and your individual fibroid risk, please contact our office for a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee. 

 

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! 

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