Question

Uterine Fibroids

What are the possible complications of uterine fibroids?

A Answers (3)

  • Usually, uterine fibroids don't cause many symptoms and often don't require treatment. However, in some cases they may cause more serious complications. If fibroids cause heavy bleeding, they may lead to anemia, or a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells. In some cases, fibroids may require a hysterectomy, or the removal of the entire uterus, which means women are no longer able to have children. Most of the time, fibroids don't prevent a woman from becoming pregnant. However, they may lead to complications during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, premature labor and delivery, abnormal fetal position, or excessive bleeding during delivery. To reduce your risk of complications, talk to your doctor to determine what treatment, if any, is needed in your individual case.
  • Most fibroids are benign and may not cause any symptoms or complications. Some women may have problems with pregnancy. Pregnancy complications, like symptoms, depend on the size, location, and number of fibroids a woman has. It is even less likely that the fibroids will become cancerous.

    Anemia: Because heavy bleeding is a common symptom of fibroids, losing a lot of blood may lead to anemia. The most common anemia is a deficiency in iron. A doctor may recommend iron supplements to correct this anemia.

    Cancer: Cancer is not likely to develop in women with fibroids, with a rate of less than 0.1%. However, one in every 1,000 women with fibroids can develop a form of cancer called leiomyosarcoma. Leiomyosarcoma is a rare cancer of the smooth muscle, which is found in the uterus. A fibroid may be malignant if it is growing rapidly or growing after menopause. Having fibroids does not seem to increase the risk of developing other cancers.

    Infertility: Fibroids can cause infertility in some women. Fibroids may cause a distortion in the fallopian tubes or block them completely. This may also interfere with sperm passing into the fallopian tubes. Submucosal fibroids may prevent the embryo from implanting and growing by affecting the surrounding endometrial lining.

    Pregnancy problems: If a woman with fibroids becomes pregnant, a number of problems may occur. There may be an increased risk of miscarriage, premature labor, abnormal fetal position, and placental abruption (placenta separating from the uterine wall). However, studies have not confirmed these associations. Localized, benign pain during the first and second trimesters is the most common pregnancy complication. This pain could be due to fibroids growing larger, putting pressure on surrounding tissues, or pedunculated fibroids twisting around their stalks.

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  • AJohn Lipman, MD, Interventional Radiology, answered

    Uterine fibroids are usually aymptomatic. When these benign, non-cancerous tumors cause symptoms it is most commonly heavy, painful menstrual periods. Fibroids are the most common reason why women have abnormally heavy menstruation. The heavy flow can cause anemia, the symptoms of which include: lethargy, weakness, lightheadedness/dizziness, chewing/craving ice, menstrual migraines, heart palpitations, and changes to hair (brittle hair or hair loss) and skin. Sometimes women are unaware that the amount of blood loss is abnormal, and the symptoms may come on gradually such that the she doesn't realize this as significant either, or she may attribute these symptoms incorrectly as the natural changes of aging.

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