When do fibroids usually affect women?
Fibroid tumors are benign, round tumors that invade the uterus. They are made up of myometrium, the same type of tissue that the uterus is composed of, but they tend to be much denser. The tumors can occur singularly or in clusters, and can invade the wall of the uterus as well as the inside cavity or outside the organ, where they attach via a pedicle. Often times, fibroid tumors are asymptomatic, but when symptoms occur, they can be painful and warrant medical intervention despite being non-cancerous.
What Causes Fibroid Tumors?
The cause of fibroid tumors is unknown; however, there are a number of risk factors associated with the predisposition for having fibroids. Some of the suspected fibroid causes include:
- Family history - there appears to be a genetic component to developing fibroid tumors, but scientists do not know why this is so.
- Ethnic heritage - African American women are two-to-three times more likely to develop fibroids as compared to other races. Also, women of African descent experience an earlier onset compared to other races; they may develop fibroid tumors in their 20s whereas in women of other races the onset is typically between 30 to 40 years of age.
- Hypertension - no direct causal link has been established, but women with hypertension appear to have a greater incidence of fibroid tumors.
- Alcohol - especially beer has been shown to increase fibroids.
- Early menstruation - having the first period prior to age 10 is correlated with a greater incidence of fibroids.
These are only a few of the possible indicators for fibroid causes and there is still a dearth in the knowledge base in understanding why fibroid tumors occur more readily in some women over others. Research into fibroid causes and treatments is ongoing, but there is relief for women who experience fibroid symptoms even though the causes are not known.
Most of the time, fibroid tumors are asymptomatic, and often women never know that they have them unless they are discovered during a routine exam. However, when symptoms do appear, they can cause significant discomfort, pain, swelling and heavy menstrual periods. Excess bleeding can be one of the most problematic fibroid symptoms, as it can lead to anemia. Pain from fibroids can be caused by excessive growth of the tumor or can be the result of the tumor degenerating from a lack of blood supply. This can occur when a tumor that is attached via a pedicle becomes twisted. Sudden intense pain in the abdomen is an emergency symptom, so getting treatment right away is important. Fibroids may also cause pressure on the bladder or rectum, and can result in constipation or difficulty urinating.
When to Seek Treatment
Fibroids that are causing pain and discomfort should be treated by a medical professional. Even fibroids that are not showing symptoms should be monitored by a doctor to ensure that the fibroids are not growing rapidly. There are both non-surgical and surgical options for treating fibroid tumors; a qualified doctor will suggest the best course of treatment for the patient’s particular circumstances. While fibroid tumors generally do not pose significant health risks, it is important to understand and monitor the growth and progression of the tumors and the symptoms.