Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Fibroid are non-cancerous or benign tumors that grow from the muscle layers of the womb (uterus).

Fibroids are growths of smooth muscle and fibrous tissue. Fibroids can vary in size, from that of a small bean or coin to as large as a watermelon.

Fibroid affect at least 20% of all women at sometime during their life. Women aged between 30 and 50 are the most likely to develop fibroids.

Overweight and obese women are at significantly higher risk of developing fibroids, compared to women of normal weight.

Malignant (cancerous) growths on the smooth muscles inside the womb can develop, called leiomyosarcoma of the womb. However, this is extremely rare.

There are four types of fibroids based on their location (see above).

What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?
Most women have no symptoms. That is why most patients with fibroids do not know they have them. When symptoms do develop, they may include:
·         Anemia (as a result of heavy periods)
·         Backache
·         Discomfort in the lower abdomen (especially if fibroids are large)
·         Frequent urination
·         Constipation
·         Heavy painful periods
·         Pain in the legs
·         Painful sex
·         Swelling in the lower abdomen (especially if fibroids are large)

Other symptoms may include:
·         Labor problems
·         Pregnancy problems
·         Fertility problems
·         Repeated miscarriages

What are the causes of fibroids?
We are not exactly sure why fibroids occur.

During a woman's reproductive years her estrogen and progesterone levels are high. When estrogen levels are high, especially during pregnancy, fibroids tend to swell. When estrogen levels are low fibroids may shrink, e.g. during a woman's menopause.

Heredity may also be a factor. Women whose mothers and/or sisters have/had fibroids have a higher risk of developing them too.

How are fibroids diagnosed?
In most cases, the symptoms of fibroids are rarely felt and the patient does not know she has them. They are usually discovered during a vaginal examination.

·         Ultrasound
If the doctor thinks fibroids may be present he/she may use an ultrasound scan to find out. Ultrasound can also eliminate other possible conditions which may have similar symptoms. Ultrasound scans are often used when the patient has heavy periods and blood tests have revealed nothing conclusive.
·         Trans-vaginal scan
A small scanner is inserted into the patient's private part so that the uterus can be viewed close up.
·         Hysteroscopy
A small telescope that examines the inside of the uterus. During this procedure, if necessary, a biopsy can be taken of the lining of the uterus (womb).
·         Laparoscopy
A laparoscope is a small device that looks at the outside of the uterus - where the doctor examines its size and shape. A laparoscope is a small flexible tube. During this procedure, if necessary, a biopsy can be taken of the outer layer of the uterus.
·         Biopsy
A small sample of the lining of the uterus is taken and then examined under a microscope.

What are the treatments for fibroids?
If the woman has no symptoms and the fibroids are not affecting her day-to-day life she may receive no treatment at all. Even women who have heavy periods and whose lives are not badly affected by this symptom may also opt for no treatment. During the menopause symptoms will usually become less apparent, or disappear altogether as the fibroids usually shrink at this stage of a woman's life.

When treatment is necessary it may be in the form of medication or surgery.

Treating fibroids with medication

·         GnRHA
GnRHA (gonadotropin released hormone agonist), administered by injection, is the best medication for fibroid treatment. GnRHAs make the woman's body produce much lower quantities of estrogen, which makes the fibroids shrink. GnRHA stops the woman's menstrual cycle. It is important to remember that GNRHAs are not contraceptives, and they do not affect a woman's fertility when she stops treatment.

GNRHAs are also very helpful for women who have heavy periods and discomfort in their abdomen. GNRHAs may have menopause-like symptoms as their main side-effect, this might include hot flashes (sudden unexplained sensations of heat) and a tendency to sweat more, and vaginal dryness. Although thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) is also a possible side-effect, it is extremely rare.
GnRHAs may also be administered to the patient before surgery in order to shrink the fibroids. GNRHAs are for short-term, not long-term use.  GNRHAs combined with HRT (hormone replacement therapy) are sometimes prescribed to prevent menopause-like symptoms.

Other drugs may be used to treat fibroids; however, they are less effective for larger fibroids. These include:

·         Anti-inflammatory drugs - these medications are taken for a few days during the patient's menstrual period. Anti-inflammatory medications reduce the amount of prostaglandins the body produces. Prostaglandins are hormones which are associated with heavy periods. These drugs are also painkillers. They do not affect a woman's fertility.
·         The contraceptive pill - these are used to stop menstruation from occurring.

Surgery to treat fibroids
Sometimes the patient may have to undergo surgery. There are numerous surgical treatments for fibroids but the two commonly practiced procedures here in Nigeria are:

·        Hysterectomy – This simply means removing the uterus. This is only ever considered if the fibroids are too large, or if the patient is bleeding too much. Hysterectomies are sometimes considered as an option to stop recurrences of fibroids (stop them coming back).
·        Myomectomy - the fibroids are surgically removed from the wall of the uterus. This option is more popular for women who want to get pregnant (as opposed to a hysterectomy). Women with large fibroids, as well as those whose fibroids are located in particular parts of the uterus may not be able to benefit from this procedure.

What are the complications of fibroids?
It is important to note that in the vast majority of cases fibroids do not result in complications for patients. However, for a tiny minority they do and these complications may include:
·         Heavy periods - the most common complication being a disruption of the woman's ability to function normally when periods are present, and also the possibility of depression because of this. In some cases these heavy periods can lead to anemia and fatigue.
·         Abdominal pains and abdominal swelling - if the patient's fibroids are large she may experience swelling and discomfort in the lower abdomen. She may also have a sensation of being constipated. Some women with large fibroids say their bowel movements are painful. A lady with a very large fibroid can often be mistaken for a pregnant woman at first glance.
·         Premature birth, labor problems, miscarriages - as estrogen levels rise significantly during pregnancy, and as estrogen can speed up fibroid growth, some women may experience early labor, miscarriages or complications during labor.
·         Infertility - in some cases fibroids can make it more difficult for the fertilized egg to attach itself to the lining of the uterus. A fibroid that grows outside the uterus (submucosal fibroid) may change the uterus' shape, making it harder for the woman to get pregnant.
·         Leiomyosarcoma - this is extremely rare. This is a form of cancer, and it can develop inside the fibroids.

Dr. Olukayode Williams


negra culona said...

Is it possible that too much sex can lead to this issue?

Linda Diokpa said...

No, it is not.