If you have uterine fibroids, you may be overwhelmed as you consider the pros and cons of your different treatment options. At Zenith Health & Aesthetics in Memphis, TN, we offer uterine fibroid embolization, which can provide our patients with a safe, minimally invasive treatment that can help better their lives.
What Size Fibroids Need Surgery?
Pay Attention to Your Comfort Level
It may be time to consider uterine fibroid embolization if you want to avoid some of the painful symptoms that can arise with larger fibroids. You may also want to seek out treatment if you’re already suffering from some of these symptoms and are seeking relief. Any fibroid that is large enough to be causing pain is large enough to consider treatment.
As fibroids continue to grow, the list of symptoms and complications they can cause tends to grow along with them. Uterine fibroids can range from about the size of a pea to the size of a grapefruit. If you’re concerned about the possibility of fibroids or the size of your fibroids, an imaging test can help determine how large they are, and whether or not you should consider having them addressed.
Large, Untreated Fibroids May Burst or Degenerate
When a large fibroid runs out of the blood supply that’s feeding it, the fibroid may shrink or die. This can cause unexpected pain and tenderness in the area due to the chemicals released during cell death.
While it’s not as common, large fibroids may also burst if left untreated. Rather than risk the fibroid bursting or dying on its own in an uncontrolled manner, having a large fibroid professionally treated may help the process be safer and more controlled. Better yet, treating a fibroid while it’s still small can make treatment even more seamless.
Consider Treatment Before the Fibroid Reaches Grapefruit Size
The larger a fibroid is allowed to grow, the more difficult treatment can become. To make treatment as simple and comfortable as possible, you may want to consider treating your fibroids before they reach the size of a grapefruit.
Another reason to seek out treatment before the fibroid gets large is there can be a rare association between large fibroids, and blood clots developing in the lungs.
Large Fibroids May Misshape Your Uterine Lining
One fibroid type is submucosal fibroids, and they develop on the inside of the uterus. When left to grow, these fibroids can eventually begin to misshape the lining of the uterus. This may increase the risk of reproductive issues down the line.
Seeking out treatment before the fibroid is large enough to damage your uterine lining may help protect you from facing additional reproductive issues in the future.
Uterine fibroid embolization, also called UFE, is a treatment for uterine fibroids that is less invasive than a hysterectomy. It’s an outpatient treatment in which a small incision is made in the upper thigh, and a catheter is inserted into it. This catheter is moved gently to the location of the fibroid by our qualified team, who will guide it through your blood vessels.
We may use the help of specialized x-rays to give our team expert precision. Once we reach the fibroid, a material that will block the blood supply feeding your fibroid can be passed through the catheter. This will lead to the fibroid eventually “starving” and shrinking over time as a result. When fibroids shrink, the symptoms related to fibroids usually resolve themselves.
What Other Treatments Are There?
Several treatment options may be available for you to try. One of the options presented to you could be hormonal medication. If this treatment is a success, you may not need uterine fibroid embolization or other further treatment for the time being. However, if this treatment doesn’t yield the results you were hoping for, or if hormonal medication isn’t a good fit for you, embolization may be the way to go.
The go-to treatment for uterine fibroids used to be a hysterectomy. While it’s true that a hysterectomy will get rid of your fibroids, it also involves the removal of your uterus. It’s an effective treatment, but it’s much more invasive. Hysterectomies are carried out under general anesthesia and are associated with a long recovery time as well as a stay in the hospital.
Hysterectomies can cause hormonal issues and can also increase the risk of developing issues with your pelvic floor, bladder, or bowels as you recover from surgery. Additionally, patients who hope to become pregnant will no longer be able to do so if their uterus is removed. A hysterectomy may be effective and a good treatment option for some, but for patients who are hoping to avoid these potential side effects, UFE is the preferred treatment method.
How Long Until Fibroids Shrink After UFE?
While the timeline can vary depending on the size and location of the fibroids, you can generally expect your fibroids to begin shrinking down after two to three months. As your fibroids shrink down, you should begin to notice increasing improvement of your symptoms.
What Are the Benefits of Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Since we can carry this treatment out in an outpatient setting, you won’t need to be spending the night here. After we observe you for a bit you can go relax in the comfort of your own home.
It Leaves Your Hormones Alone
When you get a hysterectomy, it will trigger early menopause. Menopause brings a lot of hormonal changes along it. If you aren’t ready for its sudden onset after surgery, it can be distressing to deal with. Hormonal medication can also change your body’s hormonal balance. UFE only messes with the fibroids, it doesn’t mess with your hormones.
It May Help You Protect Your Organs
Sometimes after a hysterectomy, surrounding organs can become infected and develop protruding tissue. This may lead to issues down the line. When you’re able to keep your uterus and seek out alternative treatments, not only can you avoid the emotional loss associated with a hysterectomy, but it may also help you protect your other organs.
UFE Tends To Be Less Expensive Than Hysterectomies
There are many health insurance companies that are willing to cover part or all of UFE treatment. During your consultation, we can take a look at your insurance and help you answer questions about cost and coverage.
Health insurance aside, it can save you even more money when it comes to downtime. If you don’t have the sick days to spend, it can be very expensive to take extended time off work as you recover from a more serious surgery such as a hysterectomy. UFE is a streamlined process that can shave down a lot of that recovery time and may save you thousands of dollars.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
A Diagnosis Is Key
Since some of the symptoms of uterine fibroids can overlap with other issues, it’s important to seek out a diagnosis so you know what you’re dealing with. Since fibroids aren’t always caught by gynecologists, other diagnostic tests are available if you think you may have them.
Since smaller fibroids may not need to be treated, these tests can sometimes be used to keep an eye on your fibroids to make sure they aren’t getting too big. These tests include:
Symptoms You May Notice at Home
Any concerning symptoms are a clear sign that it’s time to get checked out by a professional. Severe menstrual bleeding and sharp pain in your pelvis can mean a lot of things, and it’s very important to rule out serious or pressing issues.
Fibroids can be tricky to diagnose based on symptoms alone, since the symptoms can vary so widely. Some symptoms are vague, while others are a little more obvious. How many fibroids you have, where they are, and how big they are can all factor into how you experience any symptoms associated with them. Very small fibroids may have no symptoms at all.
Large fibroids may begin to push up against your bladder. This pressure can make you feel like you have to empty your bladder more often than you used to. This change can be dramatic enough that some patients may find themselves making midnight runs to the bathroom when they used to be able to comfortably sleep through the night.
There can be several causes behind bladder incontinence, but if you find yourself having to wear a menstrual pad to protect yourself from a leaky bladder, or that you’re having to run to the restroom more than you think you should, it may be time to look into uterine fibroids.
Heavy periods are another symptom that can have many factors behind it. It’s common enough that some women accept their heavy periods as normal for them.
The truth is, if your period is going on for longer than a week, if you’re passing blood clots larger than a quarter, or you’re finding yourself getting anemic during your monthly cycle, that shouldn’t be normal. If other contributing factors are ruled out, fibroids could be to blame.
Infertility and Miscarriage
Smaller fibroids in particular usually will have no effect on your ability to have a healthy pregnancy. In some cases, however, the size or location of the fibroids may interfere with fertility. Fibroids that block either the fallopian tubes or endometrial cavity can make conception more difficult. Large fibroids may also put a patient at greater risk of suffering a miscarriage.
If you have concerns about any interference your fibroids may have with your fertility, we would be happy to consult with you and help you make a call about your best treatment options.
Pain in the Pelvis or During Your Period
Vague, chronic pain in the pelvis is a common complaint with patients suffering from uterine fibroids. This pain is often described as a burning or heaviness in the area. You may notice the pain increase when you’re bending over, exercising, or laying on your stomach.
Even without daily pain, fibroids can act up during your period. Periods shouldn’t be completely debilitating, but so many women are used to pain during their period that they may ignore this symptom. If you have to call in sick or cancel plans regularly due to how painful your period is, you may want to be checked for fibroids.
When pressure is put on a fibroid, it can cause discomfort or pain. So, when fibroids are found near the cervix, this pain or discomfort may occur during intercourse. As you seek out treatment, changing the position you use during sex to alleviate this pressure may help you be more comfortable.
Don’t Ignore the Symptoms
If you’re ready for a better comfort level, we’re here to help you achieve that. Contact our compassionate team at Zenith Health & Aesthetics of Memphis, TN, today for your consultation.