Some women experience no symptoms. Women sometimes underestimate the impact of their symptoms because they have gotten used to the excessive bleeding, pain and the pressure that fibroids can cause. When there are symptoms, they vary depending on the location and size of the fibroid tumors.
Common symptoms of fibroids include:
- An enlarged abdomen, which may be mistaken for weight gain or pregnancy
- Anemia from heavy menstrual bleeding, which lowers the red blood cell count. This causes a woman to feel constantly tired.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding (sometimes with clots) and long monthly periods
- Pain during sex
- Pain in the back of the legs
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Pressure on the bladder. This causes a constant feeling of needing to urinate or make it hard to control urination.
- Pressure on the bowel. This can lead to constipation or bloating or both
Fibroid tumors are sensitive to changes in a woman's monthly hormone cycle. As estrogen levels tend to increase before menopause starts, many uterine fibroids start to grow. This may make the symptoms worse. After menopause, estrogen falls dramatically. This causes the fibroids to shrink (although they probably won't totally disappear) and the symptoms to diminish. If a woman is taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), however, she will probably not experience a shrinking of the fibroids or a lessening of the symptoms.
Causes and Risk Factors
Between two and four women out of every 10 who are 35 years of age or older have fibroid tumors.
Several studies have indicated that African-American women are more likely to have fibroids than women of other origins. Also, African-American women develop symptoms faster and with greater severity than other women. Some studies suggest that up to eight out of 10 African-American women will eventually develop uterine fibroids.