What is Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors in the uterus. Fibroid tumors are benign growths that appear on the muscular wall of the uterus. They are the most common tumors of the body. You may hear them called other names like leiomyoma, leiomyomata, or myoma. They range in size from microscopic to masses that fill the entire abdominal cavity. In some cases they can be as large as a full term pregnancy. They can affect women of all ages, but are most common in women ages 40 to 50. In most cases, there is more than one fibroid in the uterus and consist of dense, fibrous tissue and are nourished and sustained by the uterine arteries in almost every case.
They are often described based upon their location within the uterus. Subserosal fibroids are located beneath the serosa (the lining membrane on the outside of the uterus). These often appear localized on the outside surface of the uterus or may be attached to the outside surface by a pedicle. Submucosal (submucous) fibroids are located inside the uterine cavity beneath the lining of the uterus. Intramural fibroids are located within the muscular wall of the uterus.
Three Primary Types of Fibroid Tumors
There are 3 main types of fibroids that women often experience: Intramural, submucosal, and subserosal. Intramural fibroids are located in the wall of the uterus and are the most common type of fibroids. They cause the uterus to become enlarged, and can cause pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic or back pain, and pressure.
Intramural Uterine Fibroids
The most common type of fibroid, intramural uterine fibroids are located within the uterine wall. When they grow, they can result in the uterus becoming enlarged. Doctors frequently reference their size to the stages of pregnancy (# of months). Common symptoms of this type of fibroid tumor include:
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Heavier than normal menstrual bleeding
- Lower back pain
- A sensation of pressure
Fibroids always originate in the uterine wall, but often move, or migrate to other locations, which result in the following fibroid types:
Submucosal Uterine Fibroids
Submucosal fibroids, like Intramural fibroids, are located within the lining of the uterus, but protrude inward. They can result in:
- Exceptionally heavy bleeding
- Periods lasting a long time (7+ days or more)
- Anemia (with associated exhaustion, weakness, rapid heart beat, dizziness, etc)
Subserosal Uterine Fibroids
These fibroid types are within the uterine lining, but protrude outward. They usually have less of an effect on your menstrual cycle, and may go unnoticed. But depending on location, and size, they can cause the following symptoms:
- Back pain
- Bladder pressure
Pendunculated Subserosal or Submucosal Uterine Fibroids
These fibroid tumors grow on a stalk. If you think of a stalk of broccoli, you’ll have a good idea of their appearance. The danger with this type of fibroid tumor is that the stalk, which is attached to the uterus, can twist, which cuts off blood supply to the tumor itself and can cause severe pelvic pain.