If you have fibroids, it’s important to know when to be worried about symptoms
Fibroids are pretty common — up to 70 percent of women will develop fibroids during her reproductive years or lifetime. And they’re almost always (99 percent of the time) harmless. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. They can sometimes cause discomfort and lead to certain complications. If you have fibroids, it’s important to understand when you should worry about uterine fibroids and what symptoms should prompt you to get medical attention.
When not to be overly worried
Uterine fibroids are typically composed of muscular tissue and can vary in size, number, and location within the uterus. Many women with fibroids experience no symptoms at all, while others may encounter issues such as heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods, pelvic pain, frequent urination, or difficulties getting pregnant.
A general rule of thumb among gynecologic professionals is that if your fibroid is not causing symptoms, or if it isn’t growing rapidly, leave it alone. Uterine fibroids are rarely dangerous or cancerous. So, if your fibroids are small, not causing any symptoms, and not affecting your daily life, there is usually no need for excessive worry. Regular monitoring through routine check-ups is often sufficient.
You should, however, be aware of what common symptoms are safe to ignore. These include mild pain or slightly heavier periods that are usually manageable with conservative treatment options. Open communication with your healthcare provider can help address any concerns you have. If you have known fibroids, regular monitoring is still advisable.
When to worry about uterine fibroids
Although uterine fibroids are rarely dangerous, they can sometimes cause severe discomfort and may lead to complications. In rare cases, you may require emergency treatment if your uterine fibroids cause severe anemia due to excessive bleeding.
Generally, you should worry about uterine fibroids and seek medical attention if:
- Symptom Severity Increases: If your fibroid-related symptoms significantly impact your quality of life, it is reasonable to be concerned. Symptoms like excessive bleeding, severe pain, or bladder and bowel problems require medical attention.
- Fibroid Experiences Rapid Growth: Rapid enlargement of fibroids may indicate an underlying issue and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. While most fibroids grow slowly, a sudden increase in size could be a cause for concern.
- You Have Fertility Concerns: If you are trying to conceive and experiencing infertility issues, fibroids may be a contributing factor. Consult with a fertility specialist who can guide you on the best course of action.
- You Experience Severe Complications: In rare cases, fibroids can lead to complications such as anemia, urinary tract infections, or complications during pregnancy. If you experience any of these complications, seeking medical advice is crucial.
When should a fibroid be removed?
You and your doctor may consider surgical treatment and removal of your fibroids when they cause any of the severe complications listed above. Removal should also be considered if it is suspected that fibroids are impacting your desire to become pregnant. Larger fibroids—about four centimeters or more—that are in the muscle of the uterus can impact embryo implantation. Fibroids that are inside the muscle of the uterus might also block the fallopian tubes, which can cause infertility.
A myomectomy is a surgical procedure to remove fibroids while preserving the uterus. For women who have fibroid symptoms and want to have children in the future, myomectomy is the best treatment option. Fibroids can typically be removed through laparoscopic surgery in which a few small incisions are made in the belly through which a small camera and surgical instruments are inserted. Large fibroids may need larger incisions to remove safely.
Assess your symptoms and get help when needed
While uterine fibroids can be a source of concern, it is essential to assess the severity of your symptoms, growth patterns, and potential complications to determine the level of worry required. Maintaining open communication with your healthcare provider, understanding your specific situation, and considering your personal goals and priorities will help guide you in making informed decisions about treatment and management options.
If you feel your symptoms have become worrisome, contact us to get advice from one of our fertility specialists.