How Do You Know If You Have Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids (leiomyomas) are benign growths that commonly develop in the uterus. While often harmless, fibroids can cause a variety of symptoms or reproductive health complications, depending on their size, location, and number. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of these growths can help you answer questions, such as “Do I have fibroids or endometriosis?” and can be helpful in determining if you have fibroids or cysts. Today, we will provide you with some signs that can help determine if you have fibroids, and when you should see a doctor.

How Common Are Leiomyomas?

Research has shown that almost 80% of women will have experienced uterine fibroids by the time they are in their fifties. Many women wonder, “Why do I have fibroids?” and unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question, but research continues to try to find some answers. We do know that women of color are two to three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids and at younger ages. Research has also been able to tell us that excess estrogen, a lack of vitamin D, obesity, and family history can play a part in a woman’s risk of having fibroids.

Many women with fibroids do not experience any symptoms and do not require treatment; however, these growths can cause severe complications that affect a woman’s daily life and can negatively affect her physical and mental wellbeing. Understanding what fibroid symptoms look like can help with earlier detection and answer the common question, “How do I know if I have fibroids?” The earlier you learn that you have fibroids, the quicker you can receive medical intervention to relieve the symptoms.

Fibroid Symptoms Include

Menstrual Irregularities
One of the most common signs of uterine fibroids is menstrual irregularity. This can include heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, often with the need to change sanitary pads or tampons more frequently than normal. Some women may experience lengthy periods lasting more than a week or bleeding between periods. In fact, uterine fibroids can cause such excessive bleeding that they can cause a serious condition called anemia and diminish a woman’s quality of life.
Pelvic Pain and Pressure
Uterine fibroids can cause pelvic pain and pressure, which may range from mild discomfort to severe cramping. The pain can be localized in the lower abdomen or radiate to the lower back. Larger fibroids, or those located near the bladder or rectum, can lead to increased pressure on these organs, causing a sensation of fullness or the need to urinate frequently.
Enlarged Abdomen
In some cases, uterine fibroids can cause the abdomen to appear enlarged or distended. This is particularly common when fibroids grow larger or multiple fibroids are present. The increased size of the uterus due to fibroids can lead to a noticeable bulge in the lower abdomen. In fact, Cynthia Bailey, the “Real Housewives” celebrity, told of a time in 2013 when rumors were circulating that she was pregnant because she had a noticeable belly bump, but in reality she was suffering from fibroids.
Urinary and Bowel Symptoms
Fibroids located near the bladder or bowel can cause urinary and bowel symptoms. These may include frequent urination, difficulty emptying the bladder completely, increased urgency to urinate, constipation, or difficulty with bowel movements. Many women are unable to get a good night’s sleep because they must get up several times during the night to use the bathroom.
Painful Intercourse
Some women with uterine fibroids may experience pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse. Fibroids can cause pressure on the cervix or interfere with the normal movement of the uterus during sexual activity, resulting in pain or discomfort.
Back or Leg Pain
Large uterine fibroids that are located on the back side of the uterus can begin to press on nerves, causing pain in the lower back and legs similar to sciatica. Many times, fibroids are not considered the source of this type of pain and are misdiagnosed.
Infertility or Pregnancy Complications
In certain cases, uterine fibroids can affect fertility or lead to complications during pregnancy. Fibroids can interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg or disrupt the blood supply to the developing fetus. Women with fibroids may experience difficulty getting pregnant or an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, or other pregnancy-related complications.
Major symptoms of uterine fibroids
Major symptoms of uterine fibroids

When to Seek Medical Attention If You Think You Have Uterine Fibroids

How Do I Know If I Have Fibroids?

If the symptoms mentioned above are familiar to you or you have concerns about your reproductive health, you should seek medical attention and consult your doctor. It is best not to try to self-diagnose, as fibroids share common symptoms with other reproductive disorders. They usually require a combination of imaging tests, a physical examination, and a medical history assessment to confirm.

The diagnostic process for detecting uterine fibroids usually looks something like this:

  1. Your doctor will talk with you about the history of your menstrual cycle and will want to know how long it normally lasts, how heavy your flow is, the symptoms you have been dealing with, and their severity. This will help them begin their evaluation to determine the root cause;
  2. Next, your OB/GYN will perform a pelvic exam to investigate any abnormalities. They can often press on your abdomen and detect the presence of fibroids or an enlarged uterus;
  3. The pelvic exam is often followed by an ultrasound imaging test to confirm the presence of fibroids. Most OB/GYN offices have an ultrasound machine onsite, so it is easy for them to perform this test and answer your “Do I have fibroids?” question. This transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound imaging uses sound waves to show images of the uterus and the fibroids, but it lacks the ability to show accurate size, location, or other detailed characteristics of the fibroids. It is best to use an MRI to learn all the details about the uterine fibroids that are present.

Your doctor may suggest keeping a watchful eye on your fibroids for the time being while treating the symptoms you are experiencing, or they may offer other treatment options. They may prescribe medication or surgery, depending on how severe your symptoms are. If you wish to preserve your uterus and fertility, UFE is a non-surgical option for treatment, but many OB/GYNs do not offer this option.

If you are concerned that you might have fibroids and are not sure if you should seek medical help, check your symptoms against this “Do I Have Uterine Fibroids Quiz. ”If you have fibroids that are creating painful or life-disrupting symptoms, you can choose to have a less invasive and non-surgical treatment.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization in Atlanta, GA

Why Is An MRI The Best Way To Diagnose Uterine Fibroids?

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is considered the best imaging technique for diagnosing uterine fibroids because it provides detailed, high-resolution images of the uterus and its surrounding structures. Here are some of the reasons MRI is considered the most effective form of imaging to find out if you have uterine fibroids:

  • Accuracy: an MRI can clearly show fibroids, their location, size, and number in the uterus. It can also show if you have fibroids or cysts or another abnormality and ensure an accurate diagnosis;
  • Allows for Detailed Viewing: the clarity of the images returned by the MRI allows the doctor to investigate the fibroids in great detail and can even help them determine which type of fibroids are present (subserosal, intramural, or submucosal). It will also clearly show if these growths are affecting other organs or nerves;
  • Accurately Determines Condition: fibroids can create the same type of symptoms as conditions such as adenomyosis and diagnose if you have fibroids or endometriosis, so you get the right form of treatment;
  • Helps Identify Blood Supply: an MRI can help doctors determine where the fibroids are getting their source of life, as they need a blood supply to survive. This information is important when considering treatment with uterine fibroid embolization (UFE);
  • Doctor Can See Surrounding Organs: fibroids can exert pressure on other organs and nerves that cause symptoms such as pain, frequent urination, or constipation. The MRI allows the doctor to visualize any organs that may be squished or displaced by fibroids, which can help them understand the source of symptoms and choose the best treatment.

While MRI is the best tool for diagnosing uterine fibroids, it is not usually the first-line imaging choice when diagnosing leiomyomas. Transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound is most often used because most doctors already have these options in their offices, and they are easy to access, and they are less expensive. Fortunately, self-pay MRI centers are becoming more accessible and range in cost between $350 and $500. This may be less expensive than your insurance deductible and will return an accurate diagnosis so you can get the help you need.

What Should I Do If I Know I Have Fibroids?

If your OB/GYN confirms a uterine fibroid diagnosis, your best course of action is to consult with an interventional radiologist like Dr. John Lipman or Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout from the Atlanta Fibroid Center. Consulting with an interventional radiologist who has expertise in treating uterine fibroids is the best next step because:

  • These medical professionals are specially trained to use minimally invasive techniques and image-driven guidance to diagnose and treat different medical conditions, including uterine fibroids;
  • An interventional radiologist will use MRI imaging to comprehensively investigate the location, size, number, and type of fibroids in your uterus. This will clearly show them what impact the fibroids are having on other organs and structures and provide them with the information they need to provide effective treatment;
  • If you desire to keep your uterus and fertility, an interventional radiologist is the only medical doctor who can perform UFE. This procedure cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids and causes them to shrink and die, which eliminates their nasty symptoms.

Our interventional radiologists at the Atlanta Fibroid Center, Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout have the expertise and experience to perform UFE, the non-surgical treatment for uterine fibroids. This treatment strategically targets the fibroids while keeping the uterus intact, so you do not have to undergo an invasive surgery like a hysterectomy or myomectomy. You can see if you may be a good candidate for this procedure by taking the do I have fibroids quiz mentioned above.

Where Can I Find A Specialist Who Treats Uterine Fibroids Without Surgery?

The Atlanta Fibroid Center is known as the premier treatment center for uterine fibroids, with more than 25 years of history in the Atlanta area. It was the first in Georgia to be given the distinguished honor of being recognized as a Fibroid Center of Excellence by the Boston Scientific Corporation and BioSphere Medical (Merit Medical).

Our patients are not only locals but women from all over the world who come to us for treatment to benefit from the extensive knowledge and expertise of Dr. Lipman and his excellent team.

If you want to know if you have uterine fibroids or have been diagnosed with them and are looking for a non-invasive treatment, please set up an appointment today. We would welcome the opportunity to share our expertise with you and help you make the treatment decision that is right for you.

You can be free from your fibroid symptoms after a short 45-minute procedure. Contact us today to learn how!

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