The simple answer to that question is yes they can. Many women that develop uterine fibroids never even know that they have them as they often do not cause any symptoms. However, other women can experience a range of symptoms from heavy menstrual periods to pain that varies in severity.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are common benign growths in the uterus. They typically appear during a woman’s childbearing years and by the age of 50 most women will have experienced them. Uterine fibroids are also known as leiomyomas or simply myomas. They are benign growths and are not associated with any increase in the risk of developing uterine cancer.
Uterine fibroids can vary in size from tiny seedlings that are too small to see with the naked eye to large, bulky masses which may enlarge and distort the shape of the uterus. Some women develop individual fibroids while some develop multiple growths.
There are several types of uterine fibroid and it is possible for a woman to experience more than one type:
- Intramural Fibroids: These fibroids which grow in the uterine wall are the most commonly experienced type of fibroid.
- Subserosal Fibroids: These grow outside the uterus. They tend to cause pain as they get larger owing to the pressure they put on the nearby organs.
- Submucosal Fibroids: These type of fibroids grow just below the lining if the uterus. They can lead to heavier bleeding and other complications.
- Pedunculated Fibroids: These grow on stalks located outside or inside the uterus and are less common.
What Causes Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are extremely common but there is still uncertainty over their precise cause. However, researchers believe that the following factors play a part.
Hormones : Two female hormones, namely progesterone and estrogen. are linked to fibroids. These two hormones help stimulate the uterine lining during the menstrual cycle. Research shows that fibroids contain higher levels of progesterone and estrogen receptors than healthy uterine cells. Fibroids typically shrink in size after menopause owing to the decrease in the production of hormones.
Genetic Changes : Uterine fibroids often contain gene changes different from those seen in normal uterine cells.
Other Risk Factors
Apart from being a female during reproductive years, there are very few factors known to increase the risk of developing fibroids. However, the following factors may have an effect:
- Race : Black women have a higher chance of developing fibroids than other groups. Black women also tend to develop fibroids at a younger age while they are also more prone to larger fibroids.
- Family History : You have a greater chance of developing fibroids if your sister or mother has them.
- Diet : Diet may also play a part in the increased risk of fibroids. A deficiency in vitamin D is associated with an increased risk as is a diet which is high in red meat and low in fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. Drinking too much alcohol may also increase the risk of fibroids as may obesity.
While many women experience no symptoms whatsoever, some women are not so lucky. The following are the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids:
1) Heavy menstrual Bleeding
Excessive bleeding during monthly periods is perhaps the most common symptom of fibroids especially for submucosal and intramural fibroids.
Passing clots can commonly occur with heavy menstrual periods while many women experience longer periods and soiling. Prolonged excessive bleeding can have other serious effects such as fatigue or anemia.
2) Pressure and Pelvic Pain
Fibroids may remain the same size or even disappear on their own. However, if the fibroid grows over time, it can result in pressure being placed on surrounding organs resulting in extreme pain.
When fibroids grow, they can cause consistent pain in the lower abdomen. They can also result in severe abdominal swelling which may be mistaken for pregnancy or weight gain. Women who experience pelvic pain or pressure should consult their doctor as soon as possible to determine the precise cause.
The pressure and pelvic pain is not only caused by the size of the fibroid but also by its location. Additional complications may accompany uterine fibroids including endometriosis and adenomyosis.
Uterine fibroids can cause problems with the bladder. As fibroids grow, they can apply pressure to the bladder which in turn causes more pain and increases the risk of incontinence. Women may experience lose control of their bladder as well as more frequent urination. This can cause a great deal of discomfort and pain but also has a devastating effect on your daily life.
4) Bowel Pain
Another potential effect of fibroid growth is that increased pressure can be applied to the bowels. This may result in constipation which can be uncomfortable and painful and also in bloating. Women experiencing bowel pain should consult their doctor to rule out the possibility of more serious conditions.
Methods of Relieving Fibroid Pain
While many women will require no treatment for their fibroids and do not experience pain, others are not so lucky. The choices of treatment largely depend on the severity of the symptoms including the amount of pain or bleeding a woman is experiencing.
Typical medical treatments focus on pain relief with NSAID drugs like ibuprofen or combination drugs like Excedrin. These medications can relieve pain because they help counteract the effect of chemicals produced by the uterus called prostaglandins. Iron supplements may also be necessary to prevent anemia.
Some women may also find relief from pain by applying heat to their abdomen as well as other natural remedies.
Home Remedies for Fibroid Pain
1) Castor Oil Packs
A Castor oil pack applied to the abdomen might help relieve pain and even reduce the size of uterine fibroids. Castor oil packs help improve the lymphatic system, stimulate the circulation of blood and balance the hormones.
- Warm some castor oil then apply it to the lower abdomen.
- Cover with some plastic wrap.
- Warm the area by placing a hot water bottle or heating pad onto it for between 30 and 60 minutes.
- Repeat the process several times a day.
Chasterberry is a potential herbal remedy for fibroids. It can help reduce inflammation while maintaining hormonal balance and reducing levels of estrogen.
You can find chasterberry in tea or tincture form but it should not be used by pregnant women.
According to one piece of research, women that drink more milk are less at risk of developing uterine fibroids than those who drink less dairy. The study published in 2009 found that black women that consumed 4 servings of milk or more each day were 30% less likely to develop fibroids.
While researchers are not sure why milk may work, they believe it is linked to the calcium content. Try adding more dairy to your diet or combining it with blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses is very rich in iron which can help to combat anemia that some women suffer owing to heavy bleeding.
4) Dandelion Root
Many experts believe that poor liver function can cause an excess of hormones and lead to the growth of fibroids. Dandelion root is known to detoxify the liver and can clear out excess estrogen.
To make a cup of dandelion root tea, add 3 tablespoons or so of dandelion root to 3 cups of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for around 15 minutes then steep for another 10 minutes. Strain and drink up 2 or 3 times daily.
5) Milk Thistle
Like dandelion root, this herb can help metabolize the estrogen in the body and clear out any excess. Milk thistle is available in tea and tincture form.
6) Green Tea
Green tea is well known for its powerful antioxidant content. It is associated with a range of medical benefits including wound healing. Heart health and digestion. Research also suggests that it may help treat uterine fibroids.
A Chinese study published in 2010 isolated one of the polyphenols from green tea and found that it helped destroy fibroids in animal models. Laboratory tests have also found green tea extracts could effectively kill human fibroid lesions in tissue cultures.
7) Burdock Root
Burdock root is high in a substance called arctigenin. This may help the liver metabolize estrogen which can reduce the size of fibroids and prevent more from developing. It may also help relieve pain by reducing swelling,
Add a teaspoon of dry burdock root to 1 cup full of hot water and steep for around 10 minutes. Strain and drink up 3 times each day.