A uterine fibroid, also known as leiomyoma or myoma, starts out as a single muscle cell in the wall of the uterus. Over time, it slowly starts growing in size and becomes a fibroid tumor composed of muscle and fibrous tissue, giving it a firm texture. Fibroids can be microscopic in size or grow to be larger than a melon. They are likely to affect women over their 30’s. Fibroids are usually not cause for alarm because they are not cancerous. In a few cases though, they become harmful to the body due to their abnormal growth. An example of such cases is the degenerating fibroid.
The most common symptom of fibroid degeneration is pain. The entire process occurs when a fibroid grows to a very large size that the blood vessels supplying it with oxygen and nutrients can no longer do their job. In other words, the fibroid outstrips its own blood supply. When this happens, the tumor will start to degenerate from the inside because the muscle tissues that comprise it die upon oxygen deprivation. The pain is concentrated on the site of the fibroid and can last for several days to weeks. Typical degeneration is called hyaline degeneration and is present in over 60% of fibroids.
There is a special case of deterioration which is hemorrhagic, commonly called “red degeneration”. This typically happens to pregnant women in their middle weeks. In this case, the excess estrogen produced by the pregnancy causes the fibroid to grow too rapidly for the blood flow to support it. The vessels around the fibroid start to congest and swell, turning the center of the fibroid soft and red. Aside from pelvic pain, red degeneration can cause fever, stomach pains and contractions in pregnant women. Perhaps the only advantage of red degeneration is that it is the only kind of fibroid degeneration that can be identified by MRI in a straightforward manner.
If this happens, women are advised to consult their doctor right away. Because there is basically no known certain cause of fibroids, there is no way to stop a degenerating fibroid when a woman is pregnant. Performing surgery is out of the question because there is a huge risk of severe bleeding during pregnancy. Presently, treatment consists of pain medication or medication to stop contractions. The patient may experience bleeding, but eventually it passes and does not harm the baby at all. It is also advisable to visit one’s doctor for advice on post-pregnancy care.
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