What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids — which are also referred to as leiomyomas or myomas — are benign tumors that grow within the walls of the uterus or inside the uterine cavity. Fibroids vary in size from as small as a seed to as large as a melon. They can also grow as one single fibroid or multiple fibroids.

As the most common tumor of the female reproductive tract, fibroids affect more people than you might expect. In fact, approximately 70-80 percent of women will develop them before the age of 50. Despite their prevalence, over 52 percent of women do not think they’re at risk of developing fibroids. Many women think their symptoms are normal and do not seek treatment until their pain or bleeding becomes almost impossible to endure.

Though fibroids aren’t inherently dangerous to your health and are typically noncancerous, they can often cause debilitating symptoms depending on the location and size of the tumors. Everyone experiences the condition differently; therefore, paths to diagnosis and treatment may vary.

Fibroid Symptoms

Symptoms vary from woman to woman; however, if you experience any of the below, you may want to get checked for fibroids.

  • Heavy periods lasting more than 10 days per month
  • Bleeding between menstrual cycles
  • Severe pelvic pain, pressure, or cramps
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Fatigue caused by iron-deficiency anemia
  • Urinary urgency or difficulty emptying bladder
  • Constipation or other bowel issues
  • Lower-back or leg pain
  • Protruding abdomen or belly

What is the difference between endometriosis and fibroids?

When doing research online, many women find it difficult to differentiate between endometriosis and uterine fibroids. These two uterine conditions have many similar symptoms and often get confused during self-diagnosis. You can compare the two lists above and below.
Endometriosis: Painful urination or bowel movements during period, nausea, severe pelvic pain during or before your menstrual cycle, heavy periods, or pain during intercourse. Endometriosis is often confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well.

How do Fibroids Form?

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information about what prompts fibroids to grow; however, factors that may influence their growth include genetics, hormones, and your age. Some fibroids will grow slowly or stay small, and some fibroids may grow quickly or quite large. If the fibroids are growing large or quickly, symptoms may be more severe.
Doctors theorize that fibroids develop from a stem cell located within the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus. This single cell divides repeatedly, eventually creating a mass distinct from nearby tissue.