What Are Uterine Fibroid Cysts?

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Uterine fibroid cysts are noncancerous tumors that grow in or around the uterus. Uterine fibroids are a common medical complaint, occurring in up to 80 percent of women by the age of 50, according to womenshealth.gov. The majority of cases occur in women in their 40s and 50s.

What are Fibroids?

Uterine fibroid cysts are also known medically as leiomyoma or myoma. They are muscular, benign tumors that grow in the uterine lining. Uterine fibroids may appear as one or more growths, are round and oblong in appearance, and vary in size. A uterine fibroid can be as large as a grapefruit, although in rare cases it can grow even larger.

Causes

There are no known causes for uterine fibroid cysts, although according to womenshealth.gov, their occurrences have been linked to genetics and hormonal imbalances in estrogen and progesterone. Also, according to womenshealth.gov, there aren't any clear indications of how they stop growing, or how to shrink them, although the site states that hormones directly contribute to their growth. These cysts seem to grow rapidly in women who have them during pregnancy, and shrink in the years leading up to menopause

Symptoms

Symptoms of uterine fibroid cysts are heavy bleeding, infertility (this is rare), enlarged abdomen, frequent urination, painful sexual intercourse, feeling of fullness in the abdomen, and anemia (caused by heavy bleeding). Yet some women with uterine fibroid cysts have no symptoms at all.

Diagnosis

To start the diagnosing process, your physician may suggest a pelvic exam, which will show if a lumpy, irregularly shaped, or enlarged uterus is present. This diagnosis alone is usually enough, but in certain circumstances the fibroids may be difficult to feel out. Then a transvaginal ultrasound is used to confirm the presence of fibroids. In addition to these examinations, an endometrial biopsy may be required to rule out cancer.

Treatment

Treatment depends on your age, health, severity of symptoms and fibroid type. Certain women may just need to have their uterine fibroids monitored by pelvic exams or ultrasounds. Treatment options include the use of birth control pills to help control bleeding, iron supplements to alleviate anemia, ibuprofen or Naprosyn for cramps and pain. Some women may need to take hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills to regulate hormonal imbalances.

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