Uterine fibroids, or leiomyomas, are benign tumors originating from the wall of the uterus. Therefore, they are actually tumors made of muscle. Depending on the size and location of fibroids, fibroids can produce symptoms of pain/pressure and vaginal bleeding, not always coinciding with the menstrual period. Sometimes, uterine fibroids will produce no symptoms, and are found on exam by your doctor or in diagnostic procedure, like an ultrasound.
The most common symptom of uterine fibroids is abnormal uterine bleeding. This bleeding can be unexpected, sometimes profuse and heavy, and sometimes persistent spotting. Fibroids can continue to grow, and can produce pain if they outgrow their blood supply and begin to degenerate. If they grow next to other organs, like the bladder, they can produce the feeling of pressure or pain. Fibroids can also produce pain associated with intercourse. And, fibroids may have impacts on fertility and pregnancy.
Uterine fibroids can be found on exam, but their location and size are usually confirmed with ultrasound. They are also seen on CT scans or MRIs.
Treatment of uterine fibroids can include surgery, medical therapies, and uterine artery embolization. Medical treatment of fibroids can target symptoms (using hormonal contraceptive options), or even shrink the volume of fibroids (GnRH agonists like Lupron). Surgical therapies can now be affected using minimally invasive methods, utilizing laparoscopic and robotic assisted techniques. These procedures can include removal of the uterus (hysterectomy), or just the fibroids (myomectomy) if preserving fertility. You can discuss with your doctor which option is best for you.