Uterine fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas or fibroids, are benign smooth muscle tumors of the uterus. Most women have no symptoms while others may have painful or heavy periods. If large enough, they may push on the bladder causing a frequent need to urinate. They may also cause pain during sex or lower back pain.A woman can have one uterine fibroid or many. Occasionally, fibroids may make it difficult to become pregnant, although this is uncommon.
Treatment is typically not needed if there are no symptoms. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, may help with pain and bleeding while paracetamol (acetaminophen) may help with pain. Iron supplements may be needed in those with heavy periods. Medications of the gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist class may decrease the size of the fibroids but are expensive and associated with side effects. If greater symptoms are present, surgery to remove the fibroid or uterus may help.
Uterine artery embolization may also help. Cancerous versions of fibroids are very rare and are known as leiomyosarcomas. They do not appear to develop from benign fibroids.About 20% to 80% of women develop fibroids by the age of 50. In 2013, it was estimated that 171 million women were affected worldwide. They are typically found during the middle and later reproductive years. After menopause, they usually decrease in size. In the United States, uterine fibroids are a common reason for surgical removal of the uterus.
Some women with uterine fibroids do not have symptoms. Abdominal pain, anemia and increased bleeding can indicate the presence of fibroids. There may also be pain during intercourse, depending on the location of the fibroid. During pregnancy, they may also be the cause of miscarriage, bleeding, premature labor, or interference with the position of the fetus. A uterine fibroid can cause rectal pressure. The abdomen can grow larger mimicking the appearance of pregnancy. Some large fibroids can extend out through the cervix and vagina.