Fibroids and Enlarged Uterus.
The uterus, or womb, is designed to expand from the size of a fist to the size of a watermelon. Nature makes it flexible to hold a growing baby. But an enlarged uterus can also occur when a woman has fibroids. While fibroids are not cancer, they are a kind of tumor. Fibroids are benign (noncancerous) growths, capable of becoming very large. Sometimes, very quickly. Untreated, a uterine fibroid may grow to the size of a full term baby. More commonly, multiple fibroids create a mass that expands the uterus just like a pregnancy. This symptom of uterine fibroid not only impacts your figure but your mobility, fertility and overall health.
Fibroids very commonly affect women over the age of 30. Their development has been linked to the fluctuation in estrogen. High or spiking estrogen levels seem to trigger fibroids. But the central key to their growth, the reason they get so big, is blood supply. The more blood a fibroid gets, the bigger it grows. The larger it becomes, the more it pushes out the uterine wall. Unchecked, fibroids can fill, then expand your womb. Just like a baby would.
And like carrying a baby, carrying a uterus full of fibroids can be exhausting. Women experience pelvic pain and pressure. Backaches. Restriction of movement. Sleep is negatively affected. But a fibroid enlarged uterus won’t end in 9 months as a pregnancy would. A fibroid enlarged uterus can make you suffer for years.
This symptom of uterine fibroid may also affect your fertility. How much uterine space is left for a baby to grow, if the womb is already occupied by fibroids? How can an embryo implant if uterine walls are stretched to accommodate a large fibroid or multiple fibroids? A fibroid enlarged uterus makes conception and pregnancy difficult. Not impossible. But very challenging.
- Myomectomy: surgical removal of fibroids
- Hysterectomy: surgical removal of the uterus itself
- Uterine Fibroid Embolization: a non-surgical method
Remember what you just read about why fibroids grow so large and so fast? Blood supply. Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that selectively blocks the blood vessels leading to each fibroid. Another uterine tissue is not affected. Fibroids, starved of blood, begin to shrink. And the fibroid enlarged uterus starts to shrink too.
What Are the Symptoms of an Enlarged Uterus?
The symptoms of an enlarged uterus can vary based on the condition. Sometimes women do not experience any symptoms and an enlarged uterus is only detected by a doctor’s examination. However, some or all of these symptoms may be present:
- Lower Abdominal Pain – Pain in the lower abdomen may indicate an enlarged uterus, but it could also be due to many other conditions.
- Bloating – Because an enlarged uterus may press on the bowels, bloating and excess gas can occur.
- Unexplained weight gain – Sudden weight gain often occurs when there are hormonal changes in the body. If the uterus is enlarged, women may have unexplained weight gain in the waist area.
- Constipation – Due to pressure on the bowels, some women experience constipation when they have an enlarged uterus, although some experience diarrhea instead.
- Headaches – An enlarged uterus has been known to cause or increase the frequency of headaches and migraines.
- Pain – In addition to abdominal pain, an enlarged uterus can cause pain in the legs, pelvic area, and back. Intercourse may also become painful when the uterus is enlarged.
- Problems with menstruation – Having an enlarged uterus can cause various problems with menstruation cycles. There may be heavy bleeding, irregular periods, spotting, and menstrual blood clotting. Because of the heavy bleeding, anemia can be a symptom of an enlarged uterus as well, causing fatigue.
- Frequent urination – Pressure on the bladder from an enlarged uterus can cause frequent urination or incontinence issues.
- Pregnancy or conception problems – An enlarged uterus can cause complications in women who are already pregnant, or who are trying to conceive. It can lead to premature labor and miscarriage. For those trying to conceive, it can hamper fertility.
What Are the Causes of an Enlarged Uterus?
An enlarged uterus can be caused by several different conditions, some are benign, but some of them require medical attention. The following are some of the common causes of an enlarged uterus.
Uterine fibroids are the most common cause of an enlarged uterus, with as many as 75% of women developing them in their lifetimes. They are noncancerous tumors that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. Some fibroids are very small, but they may grow up to be several pounds. The size of the fibroids determines the severity of the symptoms that accompany them. A woman may only have one fibroid, but there can also be multiple. Some women are more likely to get fibroids – women over 50, overweight or obese women, and African-American women. Genetic and hormonal components play a part in the growth of fibroids.
Adenomyosis occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus starts to grow into its muscular wall. The cause of adenomyosis isn’t known, but it does usually occur in women over 30 who have had children. It is also more common in women who have previously had uterine surgery, including C-sections. This condition can cause long and heavy periods, and progressively more painful periods. Adenomyosis typically occurs after a woman’s childbearing years and doesn’t normally require treatment other than pain medication.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs within or on the surface of the ovary. Usually, ovarian cysts are harmless and cause little or no pain. Many ovarian cysts go away with no treatment within a few months of appearing. However, sometimes they do become serious, causing severe pain – especially if they rupture.
Uterine cancer can cause the uterus to become enlarged. Obviously, this can be a very serious condition that may require a woman to have a hysterectomy to remove the uterus. In addition to the symptoms listed above, uterine cancer may cause vaginal bleeding that is not associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Most of the time and enlarged uterus isn’t related to a serious medical problem, and may even go away on its own. It is important to remember that if you have any of the symptoms above, or if any of the causes are prevalent in the women in your family, you should see a doctor and be examined to determine the cause and the best way to proceed. Because an enlarged uterus doesn’t always cause a woman to be symptomatic, it is also important that regular exams and tests are performed as recommended by your doctor.