Meredith* remembers the day she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids all too well. She had been dealing with debilitating cramps, pelvic pain, and pressure and couldn’t remember the last time she went a month without excessive menstrual bleeding. As a result, her doctor suggested a hysterectomy—insisting it was the best option to treat fibroid symptoms. But Meredith wasn’t convinced surgery of any kind was the answer. Surely there were alternative options they could explore first, she thought. This could include medications and less-invasive treatments.
It’s common for doctors to recommend surgery to treat a woman’s fibroid symptoms. Hysterectomies are often included as a primary recommendation. A myomectomy is another surgical option for women who still want to get pregnant because it can remove the fibroids while leaving their uterus intact. But if the patient’s preference is to avoid surgery, fibroid medications can give some women the relief they need.
While medications don’t eliminate fibroids completely or provide answers to every woman’s unique situation, they can sometimes help decrease fibroid size and volume. More widespread benefits include managing a variety of fibroid-related symptoms that can impact your quality of life if left unchecked.
Are You Experiencing These Symptoms?
- Heavy or long-lasting menstrual bleeding
- Debilitating cramps, pelvic pain, and pressure
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bloating or swelling in the lower abdomen
- Back or leg pain
- Urinary frequency
- Constipation, diarrhea, and rectum discomfort
- Fatigue with or without anemia
Why Are Fibroids So Painful?
The physical pain fibroids cause is well documented and cannot be overstated. Researchers estimate that 70-80% of all women develop fibroids between 35 and 54. These benign tumors that develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus can develop in different locations, differ in size, and either stay that way or grow at different rates. Some women don’t experience fibroid symptoms and could go years without knowing they have them until their doctor discovers them during a routine pelvic or pregnancy exam.
With that said, an entire community of women experiences painful fibroid symptoms, especially as their fibroids grow and put more pressure on the uterus and bladder. Not all fibroids are painful by themselves. It’s their size, growth rate, and location that force them to press against internal organs and nerves. If left untreated, they could become quite a nuisance as they grow and multiply in more sensitive areas.
The Office on Women’s Health breaks fibroids down into four main types depending on location. Some cause more painful uterine fibroid symptoms than others and can also be more difficult to remove.
- Intramural fibroids — Grow inside the muscles of the uterine wall.
- Submucosal fibroids — Protrude underneath the uterine lining and into the uterine cavity.
- Subserosol fibroids — Tend to grow just outside the uterine walls.
- Pedunculated fibroids — Hang by a thin thread or stalk inside or outside the uterus.
What Are Some Medications for Fibroid Symptoms?
If surgery is not the answer for you, either because you don’t want to undergo a bloody procedure or you’re not a viable candidate, there are several medications for fibroids that can improve fibroid symptoms.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are commonly used to treat the cramping pain associated with menstruation and fibroids. They do this by blocking the inflammatory process and uterine contractions responsible for menstrual cramps. The most common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. NSAIDs are so effective at relieving menstrual cramps that pressure was put on the FDA to release ibuprofen over the counter in the 1970s so that more women could use it.
With that said, NSAIDs generally only help in situations of mild pain and discomfort. They certainly won’t make your fibroids worse, but there is limited proof that NSAIDs help with fibroid symptoms consistently.
While there is still so much more to learn about fibroids, what we do know is that they are under hormonal control. Therefore, oral contraceptives might be used to regulate the menstrual cycle to stop spotting between periods or continual bleeding by decreasing the production of female hormones. They may reduce the volume of menstrual flow. However, oral contraceptives will not shrink the fibroids They also carry several risks, which are much higher in older women and in women who smoke.
Leuprolide is similar to a natural hormone that blocks the production of menstrual or pregnancy hormones. This mimics the situation in menopause and switches off the production of estrogen by the ovaries. The lack of estrogen allows the fibroids to shrink. They can shrink up to 70% after six months of therapy. Leuprolide is often given as a long-acting injection. The most common brand used in the USA is Lupron or Lupron Depot.
There are significant downsides and side effects to using Leuprolide for management of fibroids. Some studies suggest 95% of women experience unpleasant side effects during use, and there have been several lawsuits filed by women who say they weren’t warned about the crippling side effects. This includes one woman in 2018 who took two shots of Lupron to treat her endometriosis in 2004 and suffered side effects for the next 14 years. She reported feeling like her body was on fire. Several hundred women with fibroids have begun sharing their stories in online forums. Some say Lupron helped, but the majority complained of side effects such as:
- Hot flashes
- Decreased libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Irritability and mood swings
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Period changes or not having a period
- Body and joint pain
- Menopause-type symptoms
- Trouble urinating
Tranexamic acid is used to stop excessive bleeding and cause necrosis of fibroids. This is why it is considered one of the medications for fibroids. It prevents the breakdown of the body’s normal systems to stop excess bleeding. The brand name of tranexamic acid is Lysteda. It is taken as a pill for up to 5 days during the menstrual cycle. It can decrease menstrual flow by up to 50%. Tranexamic acid does not improve menstrual cramping or shrink the fibroids.
Ulipristal is one of the medications for fibroids that acts as a hormone and significantly reduces menstrual flow, decreases cramping, and shrinkage of fibroids. It does not produce menopausal symptoms but stimulates the overgrowth of the endometrium. Therefore, it is given for repeated three-month courses, allowing a regular menstrual cycle between each course. Several reports suggest that Ulipristal causes liver injury in some patients, which has led to its suspension as one of the medical therapies in the treatment of uterine fibroids.
Medicated Intrauterine Device (IUD)
An IUD is a small device inserted into the uterus through the cervix by a gynecologist to prevent pregnancy. Some brands of IUDs contain hormone medication that is slowly released into a woman’s system. Progestin is meant to mimic progesterone, which our bodies make naturally. Not only do the hormones in the IUD help prevent pregnancy, but there is a small chance—depending on your situation—that it could lessen your fibroid symptoms. This is because progestin thickens your cervical mucus and thins the uterine lining. As a result, you can experience decreased fibroid symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, anemia, fatigue, and weakness.
The hormone can decrease menstrual flow and cramping for three to five years depending on the brand. The brands of hormonal IUDs available in the USA are Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena. Mirena is the most commonly used.
There are a few drawbacks to using a medicated IUD as one of the medications to manage fibroid symptoms. The device may be difficult to insert in a woman with fibroids, especially if fibroids are pushing on the inside lining of the uterus. In women with fibroids, the device is more likely to be expelled from the uterus. Also, the fibroids usually do not shrink when a woman uses an IUD.
What Other Options Exist Besides Fibroid Medication and Surgery?
If using medication for your fibroid symptoms doesn’t work or could lead to unwanted side effects, the good news is that fibroids are very treatable without the need for invasive surgery. In today’s world of evolving technology, at Fibroid Institute Texas we are dedicated to treating fibroids and reducing fibroid symptoms using uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), the gold standard in non-surgical fibroid treatment.
UFE is a non-invasive procedure where small particles are introduced into the uterine arteries and fibroid vessels, blocking the blood flow to the fibroids. This causes the fibroids to shrink and die. When performed by the board-certified interventional radiologists who specialize in UFE at Fibroid Institute Texas, many patients experience a high success rate with minimal discomfort.
UFE Advantages to Fibroid Institute Patients
- Over 90% of patients see dramatic improvement in symptoms
- Avoid side effects of pharmaceutical hormone therapies
- Procedure typically completed in under an hour
- In-office procedure instead of hospital stay
- Recovery time is only 7-10 days
- All fibroids may be treated at the same time
- No incisions, which means no surgical scarring
- Doctors are 100% dedicated to fibroids and UFE
- Mobile number given to every UFE patient to contact her doctor directly
Doctors Dedicated to Fibroids at Fibroid Institute Texas
Many women don’t know they have options when it comes to their fibroid symptoms. Contrary to what you may have heard, you aren’t stuck with bloody surgeries such as hysterectomy or myomectomy as the only options. You don’t even have to rely on medications that may or may not work. Thousands of women have had their fibroids treated with UFE and experienced lasting results.
To know for sure if UFE is right for you, Fibroid Institute Texas handles all orders for MRIs and diagnostic scans. We also handle all insurance pre-authorizations. We also offer treatments in the comfort of our offices equipped with advanced medical technology. With each UFE procedure, patients are empowered to achieve their full potential without being limited by fibroid symptoms. For many women, the UFE procedure changed their lives.
Meet some of these women here:
Are you a candidate? Request a free 10-15 minute phone screening find out. After the screening, if you qualify for UFE, you can schedule your onsite or telehealth consultation. Most major medical insurance providers cover the cost of UFE. Call Fibroid Institute Dallas at 214-838-6440 or Fibroid Institute Houston at 713-903-3733 or complete the form below.
Fibroid Institute Texas serves the Dallas and Houston areas including Addison, Carrollton, Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Allen, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, HEB, Arlington, Hutchins, Irving, Duncanville, DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Cockrell Hill, Highland Park, University Park, Park Cities, Garland, Mesquite, Richardson, Dallas, Sherman, Houston, Sugar Land, Katy, Webster, The Woodlands, Universal City, Spring, Kingwood, Stafford, Conroe, Texas City, Cypress, League City, Bellaire, and more.
Prior to starting any new treatment or if you have questions regarding a medical condition, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.