HomeHealthLet's talk about Fibroids with Dr Hana Patel

Let’s talk about Fibroids with Dr Hana Patel

One of the main reasons women consult with me about their health issues is due to having fibroids. Fibroids, which are non-cancerous growths, affect one in three women who have periods at some point in their lives. The growths are made up of muscle and tissue which can vary in size – some can be as small as a pea, others can be as big as a melon. As women get older, they are more common with most fibroids occurring in women aged 30 to 50. In fact, fibroids are the most common (non-cancerous) tumors in women.

Credit: Mayo Clinic

Our womb (uterus) is an organ made of muscle, and a fibroid is a growth (made of muscle and tissue), that develops in the muscular wall of the uterus. Research shows that fibroids develop more frequently in women of African-Caribbean origin and more often in overweight or obese women because being overweight increases the level of oestrogen in the body. Up to 80% of women will develop uterine fibroids by the time they have reached the age of 50 years old.

Scientists are still trying to find out the exact cause of fibroids. However it is known that fibroids are linked to the hormones produced by the ovaries; oestrogen and progesterone. This is because fibroids usually develop and grow as long as the ovaries are producing these hormones, and may continue to grow during pregnancy for example. Fibroids tend to shrink when these hormone levels fall, such as after the menopause.

Despite fibroids being common, women don’t often know that they are there as fibroids themselves usually do not cause any symptoms. I usually see women who have heavy or painful periods, abdominal pain, lower back pain, a change in the way that they pass urine or stool, or even pain or discomfort during sex. I would normally refer patients for an ultra sound scan that will diagnose the condition.

Whilst having a fibroid can be  a cause of concern once women find out they have one, your general practitioner can recommend the right treatment for you. There are several different treatment options, depending on how much fibroids are affecting you. These range from over-the-counter pain relief like ibuprofen; the contraceptive pill which can reduce heavy menstrual bleeding; medication taken only during your period that can reduce heavy menstrual bleeding; medicines that can shrink fibroids by lowering your oestrogen and progesterone levels and in rare cases, surgery.

If fibroids are present, then in pregnancy they can sometimes lead to problems with the development of the baby or difficulties during labour.

Finally in some women, depending on their size and site, fibroids may cause infertility by physically affecting the fallopian tube or implantation site of the embryo.

Evidence indicates that women with fibroids experience a significant impact on their quality of life and mental health. In fact in another study, a comprehensive review of 57 research studies looking at the quality of life of women with uterine fibroids compared with that of people with other chronic diseases, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers found that the psychological and social burden of having fibroids is comparable with those for heart disease, diabetes or breast cancer.

Fibroids affect a woman’s quality of life both physically and emotionally. Furthermore, the condition may become a disability in terms of bodily pain, mental health, social functioning and satisfaction with sex life. As a General Practitioner with a specialist interest in women’s health, I see a lot of women who are severely impacted with the symptoms that their fibroids are causing, and they need close support and monitoring of their mental health as much as their physical health. The same study above found that women with fibroids may experience debilitating feelings of worry, fear, anxiety, insecurity and helplessness, as well as issues with self-image and depression. Moreover, the findings show that lack of control over the condition is a leading cause of distress.

Being diagnosed with fibroids is not something that women often discuss, despite it being so common, but if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above and you feel you may have fibroids, please consult with your nearest GP.

Written by

  • Dr Hana Patel

    Dr. Hana Patel is a versatile and experienced general practitioner in family medicine. She is a life and mental health coach & Medico-Legal Expert Witness. https://www.topdoctors.co.uk/doctor/hana-patel

    View all posts

More Articles