Heavy bleeding and pain are often the most telltale symptoms of uterine fibroids, so much so in fact, that many women self-diagnose their fibroids, decide that there is nothing to be done and suffer in relative silence. Merely managing the bleeding without receiving an accurate diagnosis is simply not an option. The risks are too high.
What conditions can cause heavy bleeding?
Heavy bleeding, also called menorrhagia, can stem from a number of conditions, ranging from chronic yet tolerable to alarmingly dangerous. While menorrhagia indeed can be caused by uterine fibroids, it can also be a red flag for hormone imbalance, ovary dysfunction, polyps, adenomyosis, as a side effect from use of an intrauterine device (IUD), pregnancy complications, inherited bleeding disorders, medications, liver disease, kidney disease as well as other medical conditions.
Kidney disease demands a very different approach than does a hormone imbalance, for example. Left on its own, kidney disease can become fatal, while managing it with a careful diet, exercise and careful medical supervision can even stop it in its tracks.
As much as nobody wants to think about it, very heavy periods can also signal uterine or endometrial cancer. Unfortunately, ignoring cancer only allows it to grow and to spread. Five-year survival rates for endometrial cancer that is caught early, while still localized, is up at an impressive and optimistic 95%, while that number falls to 69% once it has spread regionally and drops to 17% with further spread.
What conditions can cause pain in the lower abdomen?
Many women try to ignore pain and simply get on with our busy lives, but without knowing where the pain is coming from, ignoring it may not be wise. Lower abdominal pain can be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian pain or cysts, an ectopic pregnancy, urinary tract infection, endometriosis, appendicitis, kidney issues… the list goes on and on and yes, cancer is on this list as well.
For women concerned about fertility, pinpointing the cause as fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or something entirely different will assist in quickly finding the appropriate treatment, thus lowering difficulties in conceiving and carrying a healthy pregnancy to term. Treatment for uterine fibroids involves a number of options, as do the treatments for other maladies, but there isn’t always an overlap in effective treatments for differing conditions.
What are my options in terms of treatment of uterine fibroids?
The list of options in treatment of fibroids is fortunately expanding, but is also somewhat dependent on the stage at which the fibroids are diagnosed. Fibroids caught at a smaller, earlier stage are easier to get rid of through use of less invasive methods than are older, larger growths.
Treatments fit into three basic categories: Medicine, Non-surgical Procedures, and Surgical Procedures. Under the first category, drugs have been developed to shrink these non-cancerous tumors and, in many cases, are proving quite successful. Thankfully, no longer does a diagnosis of fibroids mean that either suffering in silence or having invasive surgery are the only options.
Non-Surgical Procedures have also been developed and include use of ultrasonic pulses to heat up and destroy the fibroids, use of laser (myolysis) to remove the fibroid or stop its blood flow and Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) which also cuts off the blood supply to fibroids, causing them to shrink and die.
Why do uterine fibroids require follow-up care?
So, let’s say that you actually have gone to the doctor and received a diagnosis of uterine fibroids. Aside from heavy bleeding through horrific periods being uncomfortable and messy, higher than average blood loss in and of itself is also an issue requiring medical supervision.
Anemia affects many women who suffer from menorrhagia, as excessive bleeding can cause the body to lose red blood cells more quickly than the body can replace them. Symptoms stemming from this condition can include exhaustion, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath and cold hands and feet. Quality of life while experiencing such symptoms is difficult and if left untreated, anemia can lead to severe problems.
In short, heavy bleeding means your body is trying to tell you something and thankfully, well-trained medical staff and care aren’t very difficult to come by. Women have only to gain by receiving a timely, accurate diagnosis as to the source of heavy menstrual bleeding. And unfortunately, we have a whole lot to lose by postponing diagnosis.
Wishing affordable, accessible, top-notch medical care to women worldwide!