Uterine Fibroids: A Common Symptom of Menopause
Uterine fibroids, also known as fibromyomas, leiomyomas or myomas, are the most common noncancerous growth or tumor of the uterus among women of childbearing age. Fibroids are made of muscle cells and other tissues in the uterine wall. These cells can grow as a single large tumor or as a cluster of smaller tumors. Studies reveal that approximately 3 out of 4 women will develop uterine fibroids.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids do not have symptoms at first and do not increase the risk of uterine cancer. If left untreated, however, uterine fibroids can result in:
- eavy menstruation
- Painful menstruation
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Pelvic pain
- Urinary frequency and urgency
- Lower back pain
- Full feeling in the lower abdomen
- Interference with pregnancy
- Miscarriages, fertility issues or pre-term labor
Causes of Uterine Fibroids
The exact cause of uterine fibroids remains unknown. Research and clinical experience show that certain factors can contribute to the growth of uterine fibroids.
- Genetic Factors: Family members diagnosed with uterine fibroids mean you have an increased risk of developing fibroids.
- Hormones: Estrogen and progesterone stimulate the development of the uterine lining during the menstrual cycle. Studies show that these hormones promote growth of fibroids. Interestingly, fibroids contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal uterine cells. Excessive estrogen, as well as progesterone deficiency, can lead to the development of fibroids. Excessive cortisol and insulin have also been linked to fibroid growth.
Link between Fibroids and Surgical Menopause
The most common and effective treatment for uterine fibroids is a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy can be a total hysterectomy (removal of the entire uterus) or a partial hysterectomy (removal of the uterus but the cervix is left intact). The ovaries are also often removed during a hysterectomy to decrease the risks of ovarian cancer. However, recent studies show that removal of the ovaries without a related medical condition has serious adverse effects.
The ovaries are the woman’s main reproductive organs. They produce estrogen and progesterone. Removal of the ovaries results in a sudden and permanent hormone imbalance known as surgical menopause. This form of premature menopause is different from naturally occurring menopause. Surgical menopause results in a rapid onset of menopausal symptoms, whereas natural menopause (when ovaries and uterus at intact) results in a more gradual decline in hormone levels.
Complete removal of the uterus places women at three times the risk for developing cardiovascular disease. The risk is seven times greater if the ovaries are removed. Decreased bone density, a conditon known as osteoporosis, and increased risk of bone fractures are also associated with hysterectomies. Bone wasting has been attributed to a drop in estrogen levels that, in turn, results in the excessive loss of calcium. In addition, removal of the ovaries during a hysterectomy results in reduction of testosterone levels, which places women at increased risk of developing unpleasant symptoms and medical problems.
Treatment of Uterine Fibroids
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is an effective option for treating and preventing fibroids. BHRT helps to restore estrogen and progesterone levels.
Lifestyle Changes and Nutritional Supplements
An individualized nutrition and fitness plan with use of nutritional supplements can help maintain appropriate hormone levels.
Although bioidentical hormone therapy can help eliminate the need for a hysterectomy, there are circumstances where surgical intervention is necessary. Following a hysterectomy, hormone optimization with natural bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for women can alleviate the unpleasant symptoms and health risks of surgical menopause.