What Is Fibroid Degeneration?

Degenerative fibroids can cause painful symptoms such as acute pelvic pain that appears to come and go in a cycle. Today we are going to talk about this condition that women who are diagnosed with fibroids may encounter.

We will discuss what fibroid degeneration is, why it occurs, the best way to treat the symptoms, and how to stop the cycle of degenerating leiomyomas.

Facts About Fibroids

Approximately 80% of all women will experience fibroids in their lifetime but many of them will be asymptomatic and the condition will go unnoticed. Uterine fibroids, also called leiomyomas are non-cancerous tumors that grow on or within the walls of the uterus and are composed of the same muscular and fibrous tissue as the uterus.

Fibroids need a blood supply to live and grow so they attach themselves to one of the vast array of blood vessels that are part of the uterine artery.  Fibroids that grow large or numerous, can cause an array of unpleasant symptoms including:

  • Abnormal or heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle;
  • A feeling of fullness or bloating in the lower abdomen;
  • Lower back, buttock, leg pain;
  • Need to urinate frequently, occasionally leak urine;
  • Pain or pressure during intercourse;
  • Infertility;
  • Complications during pregnancy or delivery.

Explaining Fibroid Degeneration

Degenerative fibroids can occur if fibroids outgrow their blood supply. Simply stated, when a fibroid requires a larger blood supply than it is receiving, it begins to die or degenerate. The fibroid starts shrinking down to a size that the current blood supply can feed.

Initially, the size of the fibroid decreases but usually, they grow back, and often to a larger size. Then this cycle starts all over again causing uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating symptoms. The pain associated with fibroid degeneration can last from a few days to a few weeks and as long as there is a blood supply connected to the fibroid, this cycle can continue.

Symptoms of Degenerated Fibroids

A woman may be unaware she has fibroids until she experiences the more severe symptoms associated with fibroid degeneration. Fibroid degeneration symptoms are:

  • sudden, severe abdominal pain, often localized to one side or quadrant of the pelvis;
  • abdominal swelling, bloating.

Fibroids can grow within the muscle of the uterus or can be attached via a “stem” or stalk-like structure and therefore are called pedunculated fibroids. Pedunculated fibroids are more likely to degenerate and, in rare cases, can result in a medical emergency where the stalk becomes twisted and completely blocks the blood flow to the fibroid.

Related: “Do I Need to Be Worried, I Was Told I Have Calcified Fibroids?”

Relief From Uterine Fibroid Degeneration

A uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive non-surgical procedure that is done by an interventional radiologist. The procedure cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids preventing them from getting the nutrients they require causing them to die off.  This will result in degenerating leiomyomas but they will be permanently softer, smaller fibroids that will no longer cause symptoms

Major benefits of UFE are the preservation of your uterus, much fewer complications than a surgical procedure (i.e. hysterectomy or myomectomy), and a much shorter recovery (5-7 days vs. 6-8 weeks).

Statistically, 90 percent of women report a great improvement in symptoms or complete relief by the 3-month follow-up visit. For women 45 years of age and older, this will likely be the only procedure they’ll ever need for their fibroids. This is in contrast to a myomectomy which has an 11% recurrence per year! Therefore, over half of myomectomy patients will need a second procedure within 5 years of the myomectomy surgery.

Every woman’s experience with fibroids can be unique and their symptoms may vary. Even if your symptoms have subsided, for the time being, it may mean the fibroid degeneration cycle is just on “pause” for the moment. The most reliable way to find and treat fibroids is by getting a medical opinion from an expert in treating uterine fibroids.

If you are suffering from fibroids, make an appointment to see one of the nation’s leading fibroid experts, John C. Lipman, MD, FSIR, Founder & Medical Director of the Atlanta Fibroid Center, and Mitchell Ermentrout, MD by calling (770) 953-2600, or make an appointment online.

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