Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop inside the uterus. They often appear during childbearing years. Uterine fibroids can range in size from small and almost undetectable to bulky masses that can distort and enlarge the uterus. A person can have a single fibroid or multiple and, in some cases, the multiple fibroids can swell the uterus so that it reaches the rib cage. Many women have uterine fibroids sometime during their lives but may not know it unless they are discovered during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.
Many women who have fibroids don't have any signs or symptoms. Some women, however, can have symptoms that are influenced by the location, size, and number of fibroids. In women who have symptoms, the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
A person should see a doctor if they have lasting pelvic pain, prolonged painful periods, spotting or bleeding between periods, or difficulty emptying their bladder.
Clinical research has pointed to genetic changes and hormones as two possible reasons behind the development of uterine fibroids. The growth patterns of uterine fibroids can grow slow, fast, or remain the same size. Some fibroids go through growth spurts, and some may shrink on their own. There are factors that can increase a woman's risk of developing fibroids.