Category: Fibroid Symptoms

Are all fibroids the same?

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

The Three Types of Fibroids are all fibroids the same

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

  • Pain
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Pressure

Location Based Symptoms

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

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

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

 

Changes in Size and Symptoms

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

What is Period Poverty?

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

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

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

What is Considered a Longer Period?

tampons

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

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

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

What Causes Long, Heavy Periods?

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

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

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

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

What is Period Trauma?

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

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

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

Sources: Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, Tampa Bay Times

Can I Slow Fibroid Growth?

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

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

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

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

This x-ray reveals a fairly large uterine fibroid

What are Fibroids?

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

Fibroid symptoms can include:

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

What Can Speed Up Fibroid Growth?

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

How Big Will My Fibroids Become?

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

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

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

Can I Slow Fibroid Growth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Signs of a Problem

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

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

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

Surgery is the Only Option

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

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

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

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

There’s Hidden Danger in Black Hair Relaxers

There’s a lot of focus on black hair relaxers when it comes to understanding why women get fibroids. You see, uterine fibroids are just worse for black women than for any other group. African Americans develop these tumors three times as often as women of other races. Plus, their fibroids develop earlier–often in their twenties. In comparison, most white women don’t get fibroids until their 30s.

But that’s not all. With fibroids, black women are more likely to develop anemia with fibroids. They also have a higher risk for fibroids symptoms such as painful sex, severe pelvic pain and heavy periods.

Of course, those are scary statistics. But what’s worse? We don’t have concrete explanations for the disparities. What we do have, however, are theories. And one of those theories has to do with hair styling.

Could Black Hair Relaxers Impact Fibroids?

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, many of the hair products marketed to black women are full of harmful chemicals. Ever wondered why they smell so bad? It’s basically the poisons inside them. They’re just revealing their nature.

Early research

In fact, there is some science to back up this claim. A 2017 Rutgers University study linked 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.”

New Developments

More recently, the National Institutes of Health spent eight-years studying over 46,000 women of all races between the ages of 35–74. They were looking for links between chemical hair relaxers and breast cancer. And, they discovered African American women’s breast cancer risk increased risk by 45%.

Breast cancer and other reproductive issues, including, fibroid development, are often connected. So this study suggests there are even more reasons to steer clear of black hair relaxers.

Plus, there’s a new study from the American Journal of Epidemiology further confirms this link. In their group of 23,000 menstruating Black American women, these participants displayed two to three times higher uterine fibroid incidences.  And, especially for the younger women, the researcher said that had a lot to do with exposure to the chemicals in black hair relaxers.

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. And some people suggest that higher obesity rates may also be at issue.

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.

New Evidence Links Relaxers to Female Cancers two friends talking together

Of course, fibroids are a major problem. But hair relaxers are linked to so many other health problems. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) just released results from an eight-year study. They followed over 46,000 women, of all races between the ages of 35–74. And they found a link between chemical hair relaxers and breast cancer. Perhaps not surprisingly, African American women had a 45 percent increased risk of breast cancer as compared to women of other races.

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 Houston fibroid specialists office for a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee.

Sources: NY Times parenting, Silent Spring Institute, NIH

Why do Fibroids Give me 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.

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

5 Reasons Why You Get Cramps That AREN’T Your Period

Have you ever wondered why you get cramps? Well, you probably expect at least a little cramping during your  period. But when those painful cramps show up at other times of the month? It can be scary–and confusing! To help clear up all your questions, let’s explore a few reasons why you get cramps when it’s not that time of the month!

1. Constipation

When you’re backed up, a stomach ache isn’t surprising. What you may not realize is that constipation can also make you cramp! And that cramping won’t be limited to your period: it can appear at any time of the month!  One easy way to beat constipation? Drink tons of H20 (try infusing it with fresh fruit if plain old water just isn’t your thing.) The good news? Even if constipation isn’t the cause of your cramps, only good can co

me from upping your liquid intake.

2. Fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop on the walls of the uterus.  Depending on their size and location, fibroids can cause a whole host of symptoms including pain, heavy periods and–you guessed it–cramps, even when you’re not menstruating. Thankfully, there are numerous fibroid treatments available, many of which are non-invasive and don’t require surgery!

3. Cysts

Cysts, like fibroids, are non-cancerous growths. The difference? Cysts are fluid filled, but fibroids are muscular. Plus, fibroids form from within your uterine wall, while cysts develop on your ovaries. Now, we’re not sure why women develop fibroids. But we know that cyst development is linked to your monthly cycle. Also, cysts and fibroids cause different symptoms. Because fibroids can interfere with your monthly periods and your urinary function. (They could also make it harder for you to get pregnant.)

But do you want to know one symptom fibroids and cysts have in common? They can both cause you to experience cramps outside of your period. (Though, with cysts, you’ll likely experience pain on one side of your abdomen. While, with fibroids, the cramps could hit anywhere.)

Still, like fibroids, you can address cysts with a range of treatment options. And both fibroids and cysts can be diagnosed with an ultrasound in your doctor’s office. After that, you’ll be guided for follow-up care with the right specialists.

4. Are Sexually Transmitted Infections Why You Get Cramps?

Scarily enough, the answer could be yes! Infections like Chlamydia, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), and Gonorrhea can all cause abdominal pain, and other symptoms like cramps. No one wants to contract an STI, but knowing that cramps are an STI symptom is very helpful! That’s especially true because many infections go undetected for long periods of time. If there’s a chance you’ve had STI exposure, and are experiencing non-menstrual cramping, get tested in your doctors office so you can begin treatment and avoid transmitting the infection to a current or future partner.

Sources: healthline, webmd.com

Why Fibroid Size Matters (and How we Can Help!)

Fibroid size can leave you with terrible symptoms, and even send you to the hospital. Now, many women are diagnosed with uterine fibroids each year. These are non-cancerous tumors that develop in and around your uterus. But not every fibroid diagnosis is the same. In fact, did you know that fibroids can range from almost undetectable to the size of a grapefruit. Or, in extreme cases, the size of a fully grown fetus? 

While any size of fibroid can cause potential complications. In fact, one study shows that in 2017, fibroids sent over 65,000 women to the emergency room. (And that reflected big jump from 2006, the last year statistics were recorded. Because, that year, just over 23,000 women visited the ER because of fibroid symptoms.)

Now, that can happen to women with any fibroid size. But, common sense does come into play here. So, the bigger the uterine fibroid, the larger an impact it is likely to have on a woman’s health. This is especially true when it comes to side effects like weight gain and uterine bloating. 

Weight Gain with Fibroids

While most women will seek treatment early on in the fibroid process, some tumors grow to the “giant” size of 25 pounds or more–that’s a lot of extra weight to carry around! In fact, the largest ever recorded fibroid weighed a whopping 140 pounds!

Of course, a woman’s uterus expands alongside larger fibroids. Even women with grapefruit-sized tumors will appear to gain more weight than just the extra pounds of their tumors. Larger fibroids can stretch a woman’s uterus to the point where she appears to be 4-5 months pregnant. And that’s not a look most women seek outside of pregnancy!

Fibroid Treatment Options

Because larger fibroids can take such a toll on a woman’s health, it’s important to determine the size of a tumor before deciding on the course of treatment.

Women with large fibroids should have them imaged for more exact measurements; once your doctor has those facts, you can decide together whether the tumor should be removed. There is, of course, a risk in delaying or foregoing treatment. Because, if left alone, your fibroids are likely to keep growing, causing more symptoms and unpleasant side effects.

Impact of Fibroid Size

Larger fibroids may also lead to complications such as:

  • Impacting the uterine lining: fibroids found on the inside of your uterus may change the shape of your uterine lining. If not removed, they can impact your ability to become or stay pregnant.
  • Uterine damage: Fibroids that are larger than a three-month-old fetus can cause damage to your uterus during surgical removal, and should be treated before reaching that size.
  • Ruptures: Very large fibroids may burst inside you, causing sudden, extreme pain.
  • Blood clots: Though it is extremely uncommon, very large fibroids can cause you to develop a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in your lung), a potentially fatal complication.

Because unchecked fibroid growth can lead to many complications, it’s important to begin exploring your treatment options as soon as you receive a diagnosis. Once you know how large your fibroids already are, you and your doctor can decide if they should be surgically removed or if other, less invasive options, may help you find relief from your symptoms.

Ready to begin the treatment process? We’re here to help, so schedule a consultation today! We can review your scans, and help you decide if minimally invasive treatments such as UFE will work for your fibroid size.

Why is My Period so Heavy?

Why is my period so heavy? It’s a question many women have to ask. Almost no woman is a huge fan of menstruating. But sometimes a heavy flow is really too heavy. If you’re soaking through a pad or tampon every few hours, it could be a sign that your menstrual flow is abnormal or problematic. It’s also a problem if you’re passing blood clots that are bigger than a quarter during your period.

Now, want to know why your period is heavy? Here are 8 groups of women at risk for menorrhagia. (This is a condition characterized by heavy menstrual bleeding.) And a few things you can do if you’re in a high-risk group.

Why is My Period so Heavy? I have Fibroids

Women with fibroids have a higher risk for a heavy period. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that typically develop in your uterus. They often lead to heavy menstrual bleeding, And, for some women, they can cause infertility. Studies reveal that, for about 10% of women who ask “Why is my period so heavy”, the answer is  fibroids.

Of course, not all women have an equal risk. Unfortunately, black women are more likely to have both heavier periods and fibroids. Here are a few reasons why that may be true.

  1. Obesity. The US Department of Health and Human Services report that 4 out of 5 black women are either overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight is linked to higher estrogen levels. And more estrogen in your body may increase your fibroid risk.
  2. Nutrition. It’s harder for women of color to soak up vitamin D, because melanin can block its absorption. And, today, we know that vitamin d deficiency is tied to an increased fibroid risk.
  3. Toxic chemicals. Women of color are often sold hair products containing dangerous chemicals. And guess what? Many of those chemicals have been tied to their increased risk for fibroids.

Now you understand why a heavy period could mean fibroids. And why your risk for fibroids could increase. But let’s look at other reasons why your period could be heavier than normal.

Women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome

This condition is associated with irregular and infrequent periods. PCOS causes growths to develop around a woman’s cervix or uterus; the growths are either the result of high estrogen levels or are caused by infections. Because periods are irregular with PCOS, the uterine lining has a longer time to thicken, adding to the volume of a woman’s menstrual blood and making her flow abnormally heavy.

Women with Endometriosis

With endometriosis, tissue that’s similar to the lining of your uterus travels out of the uterus. When a woman with endometriosis menstruates, she sheds all of the lining tissue, regardless of its location. And that makes her period very heavy.

Women with Changing Hormones

When a woman is dealing with a hormonal imbalance—either low or high levels—she can experience irregular ovulation. And that can make her ask “Why is my period so heavy?”  As with other conditions that affect your menstrual cycle, hormonal imbalances that give you less frequent periods can make the periods you do have extra heavy.

Clotting Problems Change Periods

Certain genetic conditions, or even certain medications, can affect your body’s ability to form blood clots. While this problem is extremely rare, if you are one of the women affected by a natural or medical bleeding disorder, your periods may become very heavy.

IUDs Could Mean Heavier Periods

An IUD or intrauterine device is a long term form of birth control that’s implanted in your uterus. In certain cases, IUDS—especially ones that don’t contain hormones—can cause you to experience a heavier than normal period.

Black Women Have a Higher Risk

Research shows that 39% of Black women deal with heavy periods. That’s a higher percentage than in other groups of women. Which may be related to Black women’s increased risk for fibroids.

Obesity Can Make Periods Heavier

When you carry extra weight, your hormonal balance shifts. (See the risk factor above.) For obese women (who have a BMI of 30 or above) the risk increases further, because fat cells produce estrogen. And, with too much estrogen, your uterine lining will thicken. And, when it’s time to shed that lining at the end of the month, your period will be heavier.

Only your doctor can determine the specific cause of your heavy menstrual flow. If you are dealing with heavy periods and want some answers, schedule a consultation with our highly trained fibroid physicians right away. Don’t wait for another cycle to find relief!

Sources: International Journal of Gynecalogic Obstetrics

Fibroid Risk for Black Women is Epidemic, But You Might Not Know It

Maybe you’ve heard that the fibroid risk for black women is higher. In fact, black women are more than three times as likely to develop these uterine tumors than women of other races. But those are just the measured numbers. In reality, we now know that fibroids, non-cancerous growths in your uterus, often go unnoticed.

As a result, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) calls fibroids a “hidden” epidemic. And late Rep. Stephanie Tubs Jones, who was Ohio’s first black female representative in Congress, called it a “silent epidemic.” One that, unfortunately, impacts black women more than any other female population in this country. Here’s why:

What Makes Fibroids Silent? shh animation

Let’s review: many women with fibroids experience symptoms like pelvic pain, heavy periods or periods that last longer than normal. Many of these women also experience fertility challenges.

But, as it turns out, these fibroid symptoms only impact about 20% of women with the growths. Which means that as many as 80% of fibroid sufferers aren’t aware they’ve got a problem. Why is that a big deal?

While fibroids may start off on the smaller side, they often don’t stay that way.  And, as they grow, symptoms might pop up. What does that mean? Women often don’t notice fibroids until they’re quite large, which may limit their treatment options.

Why is the Fibroid Risk for Black Women Higher?

There’s so much we don’t know about why some women develop fibroids and others don’t. That’s largely because we don’t know exactly why fibroids develop in the first place. But no matter what, we know that black women develop fibroids more frequently than all other groups of women. And we want to know why that’s the case.

There are several theories that may explain why the elevated fibroid risk for black women. One is that hair products that are marketed for black women contain harmful chemicals. And those chemicals can increase your fibroid risk.

Recently, a new theory emerged, and it has to do with the environment. In a study in Human Reproduction, researchers discovered a link between air pollution, black women and increased fibroid risk. The study spent 14 years following the health of 22,000 pre-menopausal black women living in 56 cities across the United States. At the same time, researchers tracked the levels of three different air pollutants in those cities. And what they found was surprising.

About 30% of the female participants were diagnosed with fibroids over the course of the study. That rate is on par with what we’d expect from that study size. But here’s the interesting part: when atmospheric ozone levels rose, so did the women’s fibroid risk.

Understanding the Risks

Given this discovery, study author Amelia Wesselink, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Public Health, couldn’t explain why ozone was the major problem. But she did suggest that ozone may reduce your vitamin D levels. And we’ve already linked vitamin D deficiency to fibroid risk.

Right now, the new findings just give us one new clue in the fibroid risk puzzle. But Wesselink now wants to screen larger populations to help us better understand the connection. Of course, that could help us diagnose the many women who are living with fibroids and don’t know it. So, you may want to consider getting screened for fibroids. Especially if you live in a polluted city. And especially if you want to explore less-invasive treatment options, which often work best when fibroids are caught early on.

What are my Fibroid Treatment Options?

How we treat your fibroids will depend on your individual symptoms. At our practice, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization, a minimally invasive fibroid treatment. If you are interested in this treatment, here’s the steps you need to take: gather information, talk to your healthcare provider, and request a consultation with our doctors!

We have plenty of information about UFE on our website, and your OB-Gyn may be able to discuss other treatment options. It’s important for you to know that UFE is one of the few options which won’t require a hospital stay or general anesthetic.

It also allows you to keep your uterus, unlike a hysterectomy, which is an all-too-common fibroid treatment. If all of this sounds good to you, then we invite you to request a consultation. At this time, we are happy to offer Telemedicine appointments, so we can begin your fibroid treatment process without making you leave your house!

 

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