By age 50, one in three women will be diagnosed with fibroids. According to the National Institute for Health (NIH) Center for Biotechnology Information, among those diagnosed, 15 million women will experience life-altering fibroid symptoms such as pelvic pain, cramps, heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, spotting between periods, frequent and urgent urination, constipation, pain during sex and lower back pain.
By the time they exhibit symptoms and seek diagnosis or treatment, some women have developed numerous fibroids (also called Leiomyomas). Depending on size, type (there are eight identified types) and location, fibroids can press against adjacent organs to cause daily or acute discomfort.
Does this sound like you? Whether you’re waiting for an examination or considering fibroid treatment, you can start taking some simple and low-cost steps to manage or reduce your daily fibroid symptoms.
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Living with fibroids: How to find temporary or daily symptom relief
Over the counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
Here at PainTheory, we’re all about helping to reduce your pain (it’s in our company name!) so that you can resume your normal, daily activities. Some FDA-approved, over the counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help to control your fibroid-related pain and inflammation.
Common OTC NSAIDs include:
WARNING LABEL ADVICE
Like all medications, OTC pain relievers carry potential side effects and risks–which, based on your health history or co-occurring conditions, may vary.
First, anti-inflammatory medications can be really harsh on your stomach. To avoid intestinal issues such as gas, diarrhea, heartburn, nausea and vomiting or constipation, check and take the age-appropriate dosage, always take medications with food and only take these medications for a limited time.
Second, if you have a history of stomach ulcers, you’re over 65 years old or you’re already taking blood thinners or corticosteroids, abandon the over-the-counter approach and ask your doctor about a prescription for a non-NSAID pain medication such as Celebrex.
Iron supplements to treat or lower the risk for fibroid-caused anemia
You’re getting lots of rest and sleep, but these days, you feel perpetually exhausted? Your tiredness may be a sign of anemia–which means that you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. Fibroids don’t cause anemia. But your heavy periods or prolonged menstruation or between-periods spotting can be a risk factor. According to one national women’s health clinical study, African-American women with uterine fibroids tend to suffer heavier periods and, therefore, have a higher risk of anemia than women of other races.
To the rescue: An iron supplement (pills, drops or extended-release tablets) to boost your body’s production of red blood cells, help to prevent anemia and, over time, give you a much-needed energy boost. Combine your supplement’s benefits by combining it with an iron-rich diet. Also to the rescue: Foods with Vitamin B12, which helps your body to absorb iron.
Eat iron and B-12 rich foods
WARNING LABEL ADVICE
While The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating B-12 rich foods–particularly if you’re on a vegetarian or vegan diet– there is little clinical evidence that taking OTC B-12 supplements will boost our energy over the long term. Also, before you begin taking an iron supplement, ask your physician to screen you for hemochromatosis–a genetic disease involving a buildup of iron in the blood, too much of which can be toxic. Hemochromatosis symptoms can present differently in women versus men and, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the disease impacts 1 in 200-500 Americans, particularly persons of European descent.
Use daily multivitamins and fiber supplements
In addition to iron and B12, daily multivitamins can promote general well being, including lowering your stress and anxiety. In turn, lowering your anxiety may alleviate some of your inflammation, sustain your muscle strength, and generally improve your mood and sleep.
Your uterine fibroids are causing bowel issues such as persistent constipation? Some OTC multivitamins contain fiber while others, such as a powdered magnesium supplement, can decrease stress and offset constipation. Or you may combine a fiber supplement with a fiber-rich diet, which, in addition to controlling constipation, can also help you to manage your body weight.
WARNING LABEL ADVICE
Actually, we have few cautions here. Instead, we’re with the American Society for Nutrition and the Mayo Clinic in their advocacy for adding more fiber to the average American diet. Also, a recent Chinese clinical study cites a documented link between fibroids and excessive body weight. One tiny caveat here: For women, nutritionists recommend approximately 25 grams of fiber per day. Anything above that may cause gastro symptoms such as bloating, gas and reduced nutritional benefits from our non-fiber food. Also, as you increase your daily fiber, remember to drink a lot more water.
Apply heating pads
A hot compress or heat therapy can help relax the myometrium (the smooth muscle coat of the uterus), which lowers the constriction of blood vessels, thus improving the flow of blood and reducing cramping pains.
Hot showers and baths can have the same effect.
WARNING LABEL ADVICE
No arguments or caveats here, except, of course, to switch off or plug out that heating pad when you’re finished. And, oh, yes. Don’t forget about that increased water intake.
See a doctor
The options listed here may help you to find some symptom relief from your fibroids. However, depending on the number, size and location–plus your fibroids’ pain acuity–consider seeking medical treatment such as uterine fibroid embolization.
Fibroid embolization is a non-surgical, same-day procedure that is non-invasive and highly effective.
With embolization, you eliminate the potentially negative implications of a more invasive surgical procedure. In this 90-minute intervention, you get all of your fibroids treated at once.
The procedure involves a radiologist using x-rays to block the blood flow to fibroids in order to shrink or completely destroy them. Read more about how it works at our website. Or ask for a free telephone consultation with one of our care coordinators.
How long after treatment will I feel relief from my symptoms?
The time it takes to feel relief after uterine fibroid embolization depends on the size and severity of your fibroids. If you have exceptionally large fibroids, you may experience reduced symptoms–including less bloating and pain–between two to six months post procedure.
Generally speaking, four to six weeks post-procedure (normally by the time of their next period), you will notice some relief from your symptoms. Two months post procedure, you should notice a real reduction in your symptom intensity.
Fibroid Relief: Conclusion
Wherever you are in your fibroid symptoms or diagnostic journey, you can take some steps to manage your fibroid symptoms and improve your daily life. Your doctor can give you the deepest insights into what’s best for you.
Are You a Good Candidate for Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
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