Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow from the muscle layers of the womb. These benign growths of smooth muscle can vary from the size of a bean to being as large as a melon. Fibroids affect a lot of women, possibly up to 70 percent by the age of 50 years. Fibroids are most common during the reproductive years.
Researchers don't know exactly why they form, but they appear to develop when estrogen levels are higher. Most women experience no symptoms, but they can include lower backache, constipation, and excessive or painful uterine bleeding leading to anemia. Complications are rare, but they can be serious.
In some cases, medication—such as intrauterine devices (IUD) or birth control pills—may be prescribed to treat fibroid symptoms. When fibroids cause moderate to severe pain, heavy bleeding or infertility, surgery is frequently the best option.
Symptoms may include:
- Heavy, painful periods
- Anemia from heavy periods
- Lower backache or leg pain
- Discomfort in the lower abdomen
- Pain during intercourse, known as dyspareunia
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