Uterine fibroids are muscle tissue that has grown into a fibrous mass in the uterus. They can vary in size from very small – about the size of a pea – to about the size of a melon. The cause of fibroid development is not yet known, but researchers agree fluctuations in hormone levels play a big role in fibroid growth. Fibroids are more likely to occur in women of childbearing age and to shrink or stop growing once menopause occurs. They're also more common among women with a family history of fibroids. Although fibroids may not prevent you from becoming pregnant or carrying a baby to term, their growth may need to be monitored during pregnancy to ensure they don't crowd or otherwise interfere with the baby as it develops.
Some fibroids – especially those that are very small – cause few or no symptoms at all. When fibroids are symptomatic, symptoms can include:
abnormal menstrual bleeding including light bleeding between periods or unusually heavy periods
extremely painful periods
pressure or pain in the pelvis
urinary incontinence or a frequent urge to urinate
problems with pregnancy
Fibroids generally are treated only if they're symptomatic. When treatment is recommended, it may include medication to help shrink fibroids, ablation to remove the fibroids, or uterine artery embolization to cut off the blood flow to the fibroids so they shrink over time. The type of treatment that's best for you can depend on several factors, including whether you're done having children. Some types of treatments have a higher level of recurrence, which means fibroids may return after treatment.
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