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Published on June 29, 2016

The Facts About Fibroids

June 29, 2016

Three middle aged women laughingBetween 20 and 40 percent of women ages 35 and older have fibroids, and most don’t even know it.

Whether they’re as large as a cantaloupe or as small as a dime, uterine fibroids can cause women a lot of pain. Unfortunately, many women don’t even know the condition exists, much less how it affects them personally.

Most common in women between the ages of 30 and 50, fibroids are growths made up of muscle tissue of the uterus. While any woman can develop fibroids, African American women are at higher risk and tend to develop fibroids at a younger age than other women. Depending on where they grow, doctors place fibroids into one of three categories: submucosal, which grow in the uterine cavity; intramural, which grow in the uterine wall; and subserosal, which grow on the outside of the uterus.

Some women do not experience any symptoms of fibroids. For those who do, symptoms may include:

  • Enlargement of the lower abdomen or feelings of fullness in this area
  • Frequent urination
  • Heavy bleeding during menstruation as well as vaginal bleeding at other times
  • Lower back pain
  • Menstrual cramps

The cause of uterine fibroids is currently unknown, but researchers theorize that hormones including estrogen and progesterone may contribute to their development. Stress is also considered to be a factor.

A wide range of treatment is available for fibroids, including over-the-counter pain medication, hormone-based medications and even surgery. Your doctor will determine the best type of treatment based on the size and severity of your fibroids—many women don’t experience symptoms severe enough to require treatment at all.

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Is It PMS, or Something More Serious?

Chances are you’ve heard of, and likely experienced, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and its many accompanying symptoms. However, if the mood swings and physical symptoms you experience leading up to your menstrual cycle are severe enough that they disrupt your daily routine, it’s more likely that you’re experiencing premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

While approximately 75 percent of women experience PMS in some form, PMDD affects between 3 and 8 percent of women of reproductive age. Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety, depression or severe mood swings
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Muscle aches, headaches or joint pain
  • Strong food cravings
  • Sudden sadness or bouts of crying

To confirm your diagnosis, your doctor may have you chart your symptoms over the course of a few menstrual cycles. PMDD can be treated with lifestyle changes, hormone-based medications or antidepressants.

Sources: womensmentalhealth.orgfamilydoctor.orgfda.govfamilydoctor.orgwomenshealth.gov,nih.govnih.govacog.orgsirweb.org

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