Here at the Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center, we’re experts in all things vascular health. Your veins. Your arteries. We’ve got them covered. But this month, we wanted to discuss a topic that is directly related to neither of those issues: uterine fibroids.
Many women we treat suffer from fibroids, and despite being an incredible common issue, they’re not typically discussed.
That’s why the Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center team decided we wanted to dig into the subject of uterine fibroids in Rogers and get you the answers to any questions you may have.
What are uterine fibroids?
So, the big question is: what are uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus (womb). Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous). Not all women with fibroids have symptoms. Women who do have symptoms often find fibroids hard to live with. Some have pain and heavy menstrual bleeding.
Fibroids can vary a lot in size, shape, and location. They can show up in your uterus, uterine wall, or on its surface. They can also attach to your uterus by a stalk- or stem-like structure.
Some are so small that you or your OB/GYN can’t see them with the naked eye. Others grow in big masses that can affect the size and shape of your uterus.
Uterine fibroids usually appear in women of childbearing age — generally between 30-40 years old, but they can show up at any age. They’re more common in African-American women than in white women and tend to show up earlier and grow quicker in African-American women. Science isn’t yet sure why this is the case.
About 20 percent to 80 percent of women develop fibroids by the time they reach age 50. Fibroids are most common in women in their 40s and early 50s.
What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?
You may not know you have uterine fibroids because they often cause no symptoms. If you have fibroids giving your problems, it may be because of where they’re located, the number you have, or how big they are.
These noncancerous tumors can be as small as a pea or larger than a grapefruit. They can grow outside or within the uterus wall or the uterine cavity’s interior lining. And to make things more complicated, women can develop multiple uterine fibroids of different sizes.
The most common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
- Heavy, prolonged, or painful periods
- Pain in the lower abdomen or back
- Pain during sex
- Frequent urination
- Discomfort in the rectum
What causes uterine fibroids?
Experts don’t know precisely why you get fibroids. Hormones and genetics might make you more likely to get them.
Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones that make the lining of your uterus thicken every month during your period. They also seem to affect fibroid growth. When hormone production slows down during menopause, fibroids usually shrink.
Researchers have found genetic differences between fibroids and normal cells in the uterus.
Other growth factors
Substances in your body that help with tissue upkeep, such as insulin-like growth factors, may play a part in fibroid growth.
What are the risk factors for uterine fibroids?
A few things can raise your chances of developing uterine fibroids, such as:
- Early Period
- Birth control use
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Alcohol Consumption
- Family history
There is an incredible significant genetic link in the development of uterine fibroids. In short, you’re significantly more likely to get fibroids if other women in your family have them.
We recommend our patients contact their primary care provider or OB/GYN if any immediate family members have developed fibroids. That way, you can get tested and identify the issue if it exists.
How do you treat uterine fibroids in Rogers?
Now, let’s take a deep breath. In and out. We’re not trying to freak you out. We know this is a lot of information all at once, and very little of it is pleasant to hear.
We believe that when making decisions about your health, it’s crucial to have all the facts. Unfortunately, not all of those facts are pleasant. Thankfully, though, there is good news. Quality treatment options are available to anyone dealing with uterine fibroids in Rogers.
Though, an important disclaimer: the Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center does not provide any of these specific services.
Treatment Options Include
A procedure where doctors destroy the lining of the uterus to cut down on the bleeding linked to small fibroids.
A myomectomy is a surgical procedure that removes fibroids. If you plan to become pregnant, your doctor may recommend this over other procedures. Though highly unlikely, there is the potential outcome that a myomectomy may cause scarring that can lead to infertility.
You’ll need to wait 4 to 6 months after surgery before you try to conceive. For most women, this treatment will eliminate symptoms, though—depending on their cause—this treatment cannot guarantee your fibroids won’t return. Its efficacy will depend on how many fibroids you have and whether the surgeon can remove them all.
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure whereby you remove your uterus. You won’t be able to get pregnant after this operation. It’s important to note that virtually no women dealing with uterine fibroids require treatment as drastic as a hysterectomy. But for women interested in the procedure, it will resolve any uterine fibroids you are dealing with.
Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center Provides Alternative Care
This is where the Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center comes in.
While it may at first seem strange that we’re discussing issues that don’t obviously connect to arterial health, we are uniquely equipped to support you in your treatment journey.
Our arterial team, led by Dr. Stout, provides fibroid embolization services to women dealing with uterine fibroids. This treatment is an effective, minimally invasive surgical alternative that seals off the minor arteries and blood vessels feeding the fibroids with blood. Cut off from their blood supply, uterine fibroids will begin to atrophy and break down.
This treatment is a great alternative for patients who don’t want surgery or a long recovery; however, fibroid embolization is an involved process.
Treatment begins with a consultation. During this consultation, you’ll speak with Dr. Stout and review your symptoms and health concerns. After this initial consultation, we will schedule an MRI or CT Scan to get a clearer picture of the fibroids themselves.
Using this imaging, we will determine if the fibroids are connected to any major blood vessels and whether we can safely seal connecting blood vessels without damaging other nearby organs. If there is even a minor risk that other structures may be impacted by sealing the blood vessels feeding your fibroids, we cannot continue. This screening & investigation period usually takes between 2-3 weeks.
Once we’ve determined we can safely proceed, we will schedule your procedure. Treatment usually takes 3-4 hours and is an outpatient procedure. Entering using incisions either in the wrist or groin—depending on what your screening tells us about the position of the blood vessels. Small, difficult-to-access arteries will require us to enter through the groin. But once treatment is complete, you are free to go!
We want to warn you now this procedure can be quite uncomfortable to recover from. Many women experience pain in the treatment area directly after their procedure. We will provide pain medication following the treatment and work with your primary care provider to develop pain management strategies during the next few days of recovery. You can expect treatment pain to linger between 48-72 hours after it will taper off significantly over the next 2-3 days.
Following treatment, you are free to live your life and go about regular activities. We will monitor your recovery for 1-2 months after treatment to make sure you’ve healed up nicely. While we sadly can’t guarantee no new fibroids will form in the future, following recovery, you can expect to be free of any symptoms from uterine fibroids in Rogers!
Preventing Uterine Fibroids
There’s no easy way to prevent uterine fibroids, especially considering we’re still not entirely sure what causes them. Some lifestyle changes, though, are known to alleviate some of the more serious symptoms of uterine fibroids in Rogers.
Monitor your diet
Watching what you eat and drink is especially important. You want to minimize alcohol consumption and cut back on your red meat intake. High-protein diets often increase muscle mass, which can worsen symptoms.
Some studies correlated a diet high in leafy greens rich in antioxidants with lessening symptoms and increased quality of life. You also want to drink plenty of water and eat a fiber-healthy diet to prevent constipation.
We recognize it may seem counterintuitive that you want to exercise more. Especially since we just said you don’t want to increase muscle mass around your uterus. However, regular exercise is a great way to distribute blood flow around the body and break down the overgrowth of tissue around your uterus. Regular but light abdominal exercise is a great way to alleviate minor symptoms. Walking and cardiovascular exercise are especially beneficial.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are lots of questions surrounding caring for, identifying, alleviating, and removing uterine fibroids. The condition isn’t entirely understood, and that can make receiving care frustrating & frightening.
The Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center team wants to do what we can to make that experience more reassuring. We’ve compiled a list of a few additional questions we thought you might want answers to.
Are uterine fibroids cancerous?
Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous). Rarely (less than one in 1,000) a cancerous fibroid will occur. This is called leiomyosarcoma. Doctors think that these cancers do not arise from an already-existing fibroid. Having fibroids does not increase the risk of developing a cancerous fibroid. Having fibroids also does not increase a woman’s chances of getting other forms of cancer in the uterus.
Do uterine fibroids impact pregnancy?
Unfortunately, uterine fibroids can impact pregnancy.
Women with fibroids are more likely to have problems during pregnancy and delivery. This doesn’t guarantee there will be problems, though. Most women with fibroids have normal pregnancies.
The most common problems seen in women with fibroids are:
- Cesarean section. The risk of needing a c-section is six times greater for women with fibroids.
- The baby is breech. The baby is not positioned well for vaginal delivery.
- Labor fails to progress.
- Placental abruption. The placenta breaks away from the wall of the uterus before delivery. When this happens, the fetus does not get enough oxygen.
- Preterm delivery.
Talk to your OB/GYN if you have fibroids and become pregnant. Your OB will be able to provide you with comprehensive information on what to expect during pregnancy and labor. They will also be able to direct you to a fibroid specialist if your case calls for it.
Will uterine fibroids always be symptomatic?
Not all women with fibroids will have symptoms. These women may never even discover they have uterine fibroids until much later in life. While this is less common, it’s still something to consider since asymptomatic uterine fibroids could potentially impact pregnancy.
However, women who have symptoms often find fibroids difficult to manage. Some have pain and heavy menstrual bleeding. Uterine fibroids can also put pressure on the bladder, causing frequent urination, or the rectum, causing rectal pressure. Should the fibroids get very large, they can cause the abdomen to enlarge, making a woman look pregnant.
Turn to the Vascular Surgeons in Rogers!
If you need support with uterine fibroids in Rogers, turn to the Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center. Our experience and constantly expanding suite of care options enable us to guide you toward lasting wellness solutions.
We are a premier practice in Northwest Arkansas for the highest-quality vein and artery treatments. Dr. Haney, Dr. Stout, and the expert staff have over 500 years of combined experience caring for patients’ vascular well-being. Helping people is what we do; our mission is to provide the people of Northwestern Arkansas and beyond with the absolute best care possible.
You can count on the Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center to provide effective solutions for treating gangrene. Regardless of your needs or care resources, we will work with our patients to achieve optimal care results every time.