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FIBROID complications
FIBROID Complications

Fibroid Complications

Uterine fibroid are benign growths that occur in or around the uterus, affecting as many as 80% of women1 by age 50. They cause symptoms such as heavy bleeding, pelvic pain and abdominal pressure and, in some cases, can be life-threatening if left untreated. While fibroids start out small, if allowed to grow, they can have serious complications.

Anemia

Due to heavy bleeding that is frequently caused by fibroids, anemia can be a common complication. Anemia is the result of heavy blood loss, which also causes symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, pale skin, dizziness, headaches and cognitive problems. This condition can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a common complication of untreated fibroids. In many cases, chronic pain occurs in the pelvic region, but patients may also feel pain in the lower back, abdomen and down the legs. Period pain can be severe in many patients with fibroids and occurs around and during the menstrual cycle. This type of pain can be incapacitating, with many patients unable to work or leave the house.

Infertility and Pregnancy Complications

Infertility occurs when growing fibroids distort the regular shape and function of the uterus. Fibroids in or near the uterine cavity can make childbirth more difficult and cause heavy bleeding with each menstrual cycle. Fibroids that grow in the uterine muscle can obstruct fallopian tubes, which prevents conception, and restricts fetal growth, sometimes to the point that vaginal delivery is no longer an option, and a preterm birth is more likely. Any type of fibroid can contribute to infertility and pregnancy complications, but research2 suggests submucosal fibroids have the greatest impact on fertility.

Some physicians may direct patients to “watch and wait” for small fibroids to grow or cause more severe problems before moving forward with treatment. Allowing fibroids to grow can have a detrimental impact on fertility and makes complications like miscarriage and pregnancy loss much more likely. Pushing off surgical removal for fibroids will also make eventual surgery more complicated, which can further reduce fertility options.

Bladder and Bowel Complications

Fibroids can compress the bladder directly, which decreases the capacity of the bladder and leads to urinary frequency. Urinary frequency can become a serious problem if a patient is getting up multiple times a night to urinate, causing fatigue from loss of sleep and dysfunction in everyday activities. As fibroids become larger, they can also compress the ureter – the tube that drains urine from the kidney to the bladder. This can cause hydronephrosis, or swelling of the kidney, which can lead to kidney damage. Bowel complications include severe constipation, bloating and distension.

Incrased Size of Abdomen

As fibroids grow, they can increase the size of the abdomen, leading to abdominal distension. Bloating and swelling results, with many patients looking like they are 20 weeks pregnant, or more.

Torsion (Twisting) of Fibroids

Pedunculated fibroids, which grow on stalks attached to the uterus, can sometimes torse or “twist.” Twisting of the fibroids causes severe pain and may result in the need for emergency surgery. Twisting can also cause a blockage in blood vessels, and — in rare cases — fibroids can burst.3

Vaginal Discharge

Fibroids that are left in the body can increase the production of vaginal discharge. Abnormal and chronic vaginal discharge can be a complication of fibroids that have been treated using uterine artery embolization (UAE) or uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a procedure designed to cut off blood supply to the fibroids and allow them to shrink. UAE or UFE does not remove fibroids, however, and their presence in the uterus can lead to abnormal discharge that has a dark color and foul odor.4

Mental Health and Social Complications

The exacerbated symptoms and physical complications of untreated fibroids can be debilitating and negatively impact a person’s quality of life. This can severely affect mental health5 and lead to higher occurrences of conditions like depression and anxiety. While fibroids and the symptoms they cause cannot be treated by psychotherapy alone, seeking therapy in addition to surgical removal of fibroids can help to support a patient’s mental state when dealing with fibroids and undergoing treatment.

Are You Experiencing Any of the Complications Above?

If you think you have fibroids and you’re experiencing any of the complications above, CIGC can help. One of our expert fibroid specialists will provide an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan to address your symptoms. Schedule a consultation today to have a specialist evaluate your symptoms and condition(s) and put you on an effective path toward relief.

References

  1. Downes E, Sikirica V, Gilabert-Estelles J, et al. The burden of uterine fibroids in five European countries. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2010;152:96-102.
  2. Tinelli A, Kosmas I, Mynbaev OA, et al. Submucous Fibroids, Fertility, and Possible Correlation to Pseudocapsule Thickness in Reproductive Surgery. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:2804830. Published 2018 Sep 3. doi:10.1155/2018/2804830
  3. Swarray-Deen A, Mensah-Brown SA, Coleman J. Rare complication of fibroids in pregnancy: Spontaneous fibroid rupture. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2017;43(9):1485-1488. doi:10.1111/jog.13405
  4. Morris DV, Shekhani H, Peters G. Chronic Vaginal Discharge After Uterine Fibroid Embolization. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2018;29(9):1319-1321. doi:10.1016/j.jvir.2018.01.764
  5. Go VAA, Thomas MC, Singh B, et al. A systematic review of the psychosocial impact of fibroids before and after treatment. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020;223(5):674-708.e8. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2020.05.044