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Uterine fibroids are benign tumors of the smooth muscles of the uterus. They are generally asymptomatic, but commonly cause painful or heavy menstruation, pain during sex, or lower back pain. More rarely, they grow large enough to press against the bladder, causing frequent urination. A fibroid may make it difficult to get pregnant, but this is rare. Mutiple fibroids are common. They most commonly affect women during their child bearing years and tend to shrink after menopause. Estimates vary, but 20-80% of women may develop a fibroid by the age of 50. They are generally round and white or tan in color.
The cause of the condition is poorly understood, but fibroids appear to be linked to high hormone levels, obesity, and a diet high in red meat. They are also more common in women whose mother had fibroids.
Fibroids are generally easy diagnose. Although they show up clearly on radiological imaging, they can also be detected with a pelvic exam.
In most cases, the symptoms of the condition are managed with painkillers or iron supplements where there is heavy blood loss. Gonadotropin horomone releasing agonists are effective, but are rarely used due to their cost and side effects. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary, including a hysterectomy in post-menopausal women.