Uterine Fibroids: Symptoms & Causes | Tampa General Hospital

Uterine Fibroids  

Uterine fibroids are the most common type of benign tumors affecting pre-menopausal women.  
Uterine fibroids are benign (noncancerous) tumors that grow in a woman’s uterus. They frequently occur in women of childbearing age—in fact, around 50% of all women will develop fibroids by age 50. Fibroids tend to grow in multiples, although it’s possible for only one to occur. Very rarely, a uterine fibroid may become malignant (cancerous).  

Uterine Fibroid Causes  

The exact cause of uterine fibroids isn’t well understood. Research has linked some tumors to hormone production and genetic changes, and clinical data shows fibroids are slightly more likely to occur in women who:  

  • Are overweight or obese  
  • Are African American  
  • Have a family history of uterine fibroids  
  • Have never been pregnant  
  • Started their period at a very early age   

Uterine Fibroid Symptoms 

The symptoms of uterine fibroids can vary according to their size and location within the uterus. Some of the most common uterine fibroid symptoms include:  

  • Heavy or especially painful periods  
  • Frequent urination  
  • Pelvic pain or pressure  
  • Bleeding in between periods  
  • Low back or leg pain  
  • A sensation of fullness in the lower abdomen   
  • Pain during sexual intercourse  
  • Difficulty getting pregnant (infertility)  
  • Constipation   

Uterine fibroids may not cause any noticeable symptoms for some women, especially if the tumors are small. Some fibroids are so tiny that they can only be seen through a microscope.  

Uterine Fibroid Diagnosis 

Uterine fibroids are often discovered unintentionally during a routine gynecological exam, as a physician may notice abnormalities in the shape of the uterus. If fibroids are suspected, an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound can be used to view images of the uterus. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or hysterosonography may also be performed if additional imaging tests are needed to confirm a diagnosis.  

Uterine Fibroid Treatments  

A “watchful waiting” approach is all that’s necessary for many women with uterine fibroids. However, if fibroids are triggering symptoms or impacting fertility, common treatment options include:  

  • Birth control pills or intrauterine devices (IUDs) to help reduce heavy menstrual bleeding 
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist medication to help shrink fibroids   
  • Surgery to remove fibroids while keeping the uterus intact 
  • Surgery to remove the uterus   

Tampa General Hospital’s Women’s Institute features a diverse team of women’s health specialists who excel in conservative and surgical uterine fibroid treatment.