According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately one in five women develop uterine fibroids during the time between her first period and before menopause. Uterine fibroids are also called fibromyomas, leiomyomas and myomas. These slow-growing, non-cancerous tumors can range in size from too small to be detected by the naked eye to large enough that it expands the uterus so far the uterus reaches the ribcage. Black women are more at risk for uterine fibroids than women of other races. Since these fibroids don’t always cause symptoms, most women are unaware of this medical condition.
Uterine fibroids can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, abnormally long menstrual periods lasting seven days or more, bleeding between periods and anemia from blood loss. According to the Merck Manual of Medical Information, symptoms of anemia from a blood loss over several hours or less include low blood pressure and dizziness, while a blood loss over several weeks or longer include tiredness, shortness of breath and paleness.
According to the Mayo Clinic, submucosal fibroids, which grow in the uterine cavity, are the primary cause of menstrual changes. Fibroids can cause infertility by blocking the passageway sperm normally takes to reach an egg for fertilization. Contact your physician for an examination if you experience symptoms of anemia, overly heavy or painful periods, or spotting or bleeding between periods.
A person with uterine fibroids can feel lower abdominal pain that is described as dull, sharp or aching. Other symptoms of uterine fibroids include a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen, backache, leg pain and painful intercourse. According to the Mayo Clinic, backache and leg pain results from a fibroid that presses on the spinal nerves.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pain can occur abruptly if the fibroid grows too big for its present blood supply or if the blood supply is suddenly shut off when the stalk of a pendunculated fibroid becomes twisted. A pendunculated fibroid is attached to the inside or outside of the uterus by a stalk-like projection. Contact your physician for an examination if you experience pelvic pain that doesn’t go away or that increases in intensity and painful intercourse.
Urinary changes like frequent urination and difficulty emptying your bladder occur as the fibroid presses against the bladder. Incomplete emptying of your bladder can cause a urinary tract infection. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of a urinary tract infection include cloudy or blood urine, foul-smelling urine, low fever, pain or burning with urination, pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen or back and a strong need to urinate often.
If the uterine fibroid is large enough, it can press on the rectum causing constipation and difficulty passing stool. According to the Mayo Clinic, fibroids that grow under the outside covering of the uterus are likely responsible for urinary symptoms and constipation. Contact your physician for an examination if you experience difficulty either emptying your bladder or passing a bowel movement, or if you experience symptoms of a urinary tract infection.