The uterus is one of the first organs to manifest symptoms when a woman’s hormones are out of balance. Two of the most common problems are enlarged uterus and uterine fibroids. In the first of a two-part series, we discuss fibroids.
Fibroids are actually quite common and are generally not considered a major health hazard. Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumours that grow on or within the muscle tissue of the uterus.
Approximately 20-40 per cent of women from the age 35 years onwards have fibroid tumours. Fibroids are hormonally sensitive, so symptoms are likely to be cyclical, like menstruation. As estrogen levels tend to increase prior to the onset of menopause, the size of many uterine fibroids is likely to increase. During menopause the levels of estrogen decrease dramatically, causing fibroids to shrink.
The size of fibroids can range from very small (walnut size) to as large as an orange and rarely, even larger than that.
Finding fibroids: Fibroids, especially when small, may be asymptomatic. Symptoms depend on the location of the fibroids and their size.
Common symptoms: Some of the symptoms include severe bleeding while menstruating or bleeding between periods. Women could also experience menstruation for a longer period of time. Some compain of pain in the pelvic region and pressure on the rectum, resulting in constipation. Backache or pain in the legs is also common. Other symptons include lower abdominal pain, increase in size around the waist and change in abdominal contours. Some cases also reveal infertility as a symptom. If you have at least five of the above mentioned symptoms, it is advisable to visit a gynaecologist to check for fibroids and change your
What causes fibroids?
* Genetic predisposition: One theory is that some women carry the problem in their genes and may inherit it or be prone to the condition.
* Hormones: Estrogen and progesterone are hormones that prepare your uterine
lining for pregnancy. It is believed that these hormones can further the growth of fibroids.
* Body weight: While hormonal factors do play a prominent role in fibroids (particularly estrogens), excess body weight also tends to increase estrogen production, thus aggravating fibroid growth.
* Hormonal disorder: Women with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are more likely to suffer from fibroids. PCOS is a hormone disorder that causes ovaries to develop multiple cysts. It is usually accompanied by lack of ovulation, weight gain and other problems.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.