Fibroids are abnormal growths which develop in or on the uterus. They are generally non-cancerous with most women not even aware of their presence in their body – i.e., they are symptomless. Fibroids are believed to be caused by a combination of factors including hormonal imbalances, pregnancy and family history. It’s estimated that about 70-80% of females get them before the age of 50 years.

Fibroids can be classified depending on their location:

  • Intramural fibroids are the most common type and are located on the endometrium or within the lining of the uterus. They can lead to intense pain in some women and heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • Subserosal fibroids form on the outer surface of the womb and though it doesn’t lead to excessive bleeding, it can lead to pelvic and back pain due to the extra pressure. It can also press onto surrounding organs like the kidneys and induce pain.
  • Pedunculated fibroids are subserosal fibroids that have developed on a stalk and cause the fibroids to grow centrally into the uterine cavity. It gets really painful when the stalk gets twisted.
  • Submucosal fibroids grow on the myometrium of the uterus, also known as the lining and tend to interfere with conceiving. They can also lead to heavy menstrual bleeding and if left unchecked, can lead to pregnancy problems, anaemia and feelings of fatigue; in some rare cases, the woman may even need blood transfusions.

The amazing thing about fibroids is that some are completely symptomless while others may cause extreme pain and prolonged and very heavy periods. They can also create pressure on other organs and the spine, affect your sex life and even cause you to urinate frequently. Sometimes their size can interfere in childbirth and create fertility issues too.

So what’s the treatment you ask? Treatment is based on the size and location of the fibroid as well as the health of the woman. It involves the use of medications to shrink the size of the fibroids to more manageable levels. To help in controlling pain and bleeding issues, you might be given birth control pills, IUDs or painkillers. However, these won’t eliminate the fibroids.

In cases of large multiple fibroids, a surgical incision of the abdomen is done to remove them. It can also be done laparoscopically. In case there is no improvement, a hysterectomy may be needed.

Some newer minimally invasive procedures that use high-energy, high-frequency sound waves, microwaves, electric current or lasers can all be employed to destroy these fibroids too. Alternatively, they can be destroyed by freezing through cryomyolysis.

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