Written by Achiever Foods Nutrition Unit
One day, I was in a pharmacy shop in Accra to restock Daliha Foods and a woman walked in with so much pain. She came to buy an analgesic to suppress an excruciating pain she was experiencing during her menstrual period. When I was about to leave the shop, I approached her and encouraged her then she said to me; ‘I have fibroid and I need a solution now’. I gave her one Daliha Juice and encouraged her and she said; ‘Thank you so much for your kindness’. Today, many women are suffering from this condition all over the world. As a matter of fact, fibroid is one of the health concerns of women of child bearing age.
Fibroid is a medical condition with no known cause as at now. Fibroids are abnormal growths also called muscle tumors or uterine fibroid, that develop in a woman’s uterus or womb. They grow from pea sizes to very large sizes, that can make the abdomen look distended. It is a condition peculiar to females especially, and more prone to it are women in their reproductive years. If not diagnosed early could cause other health problems to the individuals affected including death.
They are usually benign, meaning they are non-cancerous or not malignant. Malignant fibroids are rarely seen. That being said, it is important for women in the reproductive years to have regular checkups so that a condition like this, if present would be diagnosed early, also because, some females don’t exhibit any symptoms of it, though it may be present and developing. A woman can have more than one fibroid developing in her at different rates (sizes) at the same time. Fibroids can grow outside or within the uterine wall, or inside the uterine cavity. They can grow in the uterus, uterine wall, or on its surface.
• Causes of Fibroids
As mentioned earlier, the actual cause of fibroid is unknown. But there are some factors that can make one prone to developing Fibroids. These factors include:
- Age: Fibroids become more common as women age, especially in their reproductive years. After menopause, chances of developing fibroids become lesser and they usually shrink if present.
- Race: Research has shown that, African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than women in other races. Why this is so is not known yet.
- Early Menstruation: Starting menstruation at an early age can put one at risk for uterine fibroid.
- Birth Control Methods: hormonal imbalances as a result of some birth controls can put one as risk for developing uterine fibroid.
- Obesity: Women who are overweight have higher chances of developing fibroids. They stand the change of two to three times higher risk than the average weight woman.
- Family History: Having a family history of fibroid increases the chances of an individual for same. If a woman has Fibroid, chances of her daughters developing it during their reproductive ages is higher than those with no such history in their family.
Hormones and genetics might increase your chances of getting Fibroid. Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones in females are hormones responsible for making the lining of the uterus thicken during the menstrual period every month. They also seem to affect fibroid growth, such that, when hormone production slows down during menopause, fibroids usually shrink.
Poor diet: Poor eating habits such as; eating too much red meat and not enough green vegetables, fruit, or dairy has been associated with fibroid development.
• Some Common symptoms of fibroids include:
- Acute pain at growth site,
- Constipation in some cases
- Heavy, prolonged, or painful menstrual periods
- Pain in the lower abdomen or backache
- Painful sex
- Frequent urination
- Discomfort in the rectum
- Difficulty in getting pregnant
Excessive or painful uterine bleeding between or during menstruation period that includes blood clots and this may lead to complications like anaemia. These symptoms vary in intensity from person to person and are influence based on where the fibroid is located, it’s size and how many they are.
• Diagnosing Fibroid
Upon a physical examination (an abdominal or pelvic examination), your health care provider may feel a firm usually painless lump during the examination or an irregular shaped uterus and scans and then laboratory investigations would be carried out to further confirm the findings. Some of these further investigations may include: Extracellular matrix, abdominal ultrasound, Complete or Full blood counts, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Hysteroscopy, Hysterosalpingography, Hysterosonography
• Complications of Fibroid
- Some grow in big masses and can affect the size and shape of your uterus.
- Anaemia: fibroid can contribute to excessive bleeding in an individual, which can lead to anaemia.
- Compression of organs around where the growth is occurring, limiting their functioning.
- Difficulty in getting pregnant as there may be no place for attachment.
- Loss of uterus in case of removal.
- From surgery: infection, scar, loss of uterus in extreme cases.
• Treatment of Uterine Fibroids
There are many ways to treat fibroids and treatment options vary from person to person and are suggested based on the age of the individual, presenting symptoms, overall health of the individual, size of the fibroid, where the it is located and whether the individual would want to get pregnant someday.
Here are some ways to treat or manage fibroids.
- Surgery: Surgical removal of fibroid growth of a certain size and or above, best determined by the doctor upon his examination findings (routine pelvic examinations)
- Medications. Medications for fibroids are used to treat the presenting symptoms. Examples; there are medications to stop excessive bleeding as a result of fibroid. The Fibroid may not go away with medications or surgery as in some cases, there may be a regrowth after some time. But medications help to shrink the Fibroid with time and also help to relieve the individual of pain.
• Uterine Fibroid Prevention
Fibroids cannot be prevented since their actual cause is not known. But there are some healthy lifestyles that can reduce and individual’s chances of developing fibroids.
Research has brought the following to light:
- Eating too much surgery diets may increase one’s chances of developing fibroid.
- Eating fresh fruits and vegetables examples: broccoli, cabbage, green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, collard greens, and turnip greens, can reduce your chances of developing fibroids. Thus, vegetables rich in beta-carotene, folate, vitamins C, E, and K, and other minerals and fibre lower your chances of developing fibroids.
- Consistently exercising also helps in lowering your chances of developing uterine fibroids.
• Things to note:
- Females of reproductive age are more prone to fibroids.
- The cause of fibroids is unknown at the moment.
- Hormonal changes in women: higher levels of estrogen are associated with development of fibroids.
- Symptoms of Fibroid can be silent in an individual even though the growth may be present.
- Uterine fibroids, are also called leiomyomas or myomas. They are tumors that can grow on the uterus or womb.
- Fibroids are usually benign; thus, they rarely turn into cancer.
- Being diagnosed of uterine fibroid does not mean you’ll have uterine cancer as well.
- Fibroids are rarely cancerous, and they grow slowly or not at all. They can also shrink or go away after menopause.
It is advisable to plan treatment and diet with a health professional and not settle for any medication out there because, treatment of fibroid carries from person to person. Enjoy good life, eat healthy and maintain an all-round healthy body and mind. Fibroids are not barren sentences to women. They can be treated if brought to the appropriate care givers.
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