What is fibroid degeneration?

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Degeneration – that’s nearly never a positive term. In fact, internet searches for this one word alone yield pages of ominous uses and definitions. And indeed, fibroid degeneration is no fun. Let’s take a look at what this diagnosis means.

A fibroid is a non-cancerous growth located in or growing from the walls or interior of the uterus. Fibroids are made of living tissue and therefore need oxygen and nutrients to survive and grow. They take these from blood vessels in and around the uterus. Depending on size and placement, uterine fibroid symptoms can include any from a range of being symptom free through combinations of issues that can become near-debilitating. Occasionally though, fibroids can have their own complications that add to the list of symptoms and risk.

Fibroid degeneration occurs when a fibroid has grown to a size that the surrounding tissue can no longer support, or when a change occurs in the uterus that closes off the fibroid from its nutrient source. The fibroid loses its nutrient supply and begins to die. While that might sound encouraging, it actually isn’t. The process of fibroid degeneration is only rarely dangerous but can be intensely painful.

  • Sharp pain in the area of the fibroid that can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks
  • Swelling in the area of the fibroid
  • Chronic pain – While some women experience chronic pelvic pain as a symptom of fibroids, some feel it set in only when fibroid degeneration occurs.
  • Fever – Fibroid degeneration during pregnancy can bring on a fever.

o   Fibroid degeneration during a pregnancy is called necrobiosis. When people ask, “Are uterine fibroids dangerous?” This would be one of the times to most suspect a problem. Pain and bleeding can become quite severe, making this condition somewhat alarming. Especially during pregnancy, it is vital to get competent medical attention quickly.

  • Bleeding – Though less common than other symptoms, a sharp increase in vaginal bleeding can also result from fibroid degeneration.

Being on top of what is happening in your body is key to getting treatment and preventing further complications, so if you feel any of these symptoms, please bring them to the attention of your doctor.

When a pedunculated fibroid degenerates, the stem that attaches it to the uterine wall can twist, making these the trickiest and potentially most painful incidences of degeneration. Pain can be particularly severe and the time frame for this degeneration is longer than that of the process of a regular degeneration.

How is fibroid degeneration treated?

Fibroid degeneration treatment involves the same list of regular uterine fibroid treatment options. As is often mentioned with fibroids, surgery is one possibility, either a hysterectomy or myomectomy. However, as medical research advances, other options have been developed. While endometrial ablation and uterine fibroid embolization offer easier healing than hysterectomy or myomectomy, there are actually pharmaceutical options now on the market that have proven effective. Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormones Agonists (GnRH) have been shown effective in shrinking some fibroids while maintaining fertility.

Some women choose, even with the pain and bleeding of a degenerating fibroid, to grit their teeth through the suffering and still take a wait-and-see approach. So long as this is done with medical supervision, it can be an option. However, allowing fibroids to remain can result in living a perpetual loop, whereby the fibroid degenerates to the point where the body can once again support it, again “feeding it” and it regrows. The fibroid grows again to the point of degeneration, then shrinking again until it begins growing again.

And by all means, pain relief in the form of ibuprofen and/or heating pads can also help.

As always, we recommend maintaining regular visits with a competent doctor with whom you feel confident and comfortable. Being on top of your full medical situation enables problems to be identified at earlier stages, giving time to monitor BEFORE any emergency may occur. Staying ahead of the game is the name of the game as research provides more advancements every day in improving the lives of women everywhere. Wishing strength and health!