A uterine leiomyoma is commonly known as a fibroid and is a noncancerous growth that develops in the smooth muscle layer of the uterus, explains Mayo Clinic. Most fibroids appear during childbearing years and affect as many as three in four women during their lifetime.
A fibroid may be as small as a seedling or large enough to distort the uterine architecture, according to Mayo Clinic. Fibroids that develop during pregnancy often shrink in size after delivery when the uterus decreases in size. The symptoms of uterine leiomyoma include heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, prolonged menstrual periods, pelvic pressure, and pain and constipation. Some women experience difficulty emptying the bladder and have pain in the legs or back.
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown, explains Mayo Clinic. Genetic changes, hormones and growth factors may play a role in their development. Risk factors include a family history of fibroids, race, menstruation at an early age, a diet high in red meat and alcohol use. Fibroids do not increase the risk of cancer, and complications include anemia from heavy bleeding. Fibroids that grow in the submucosal layer of the uterus may cause infertility or miscarriage.
Fibroid treatment depends on the symptoms and size of the growth, according to Mayo Clinic. Asymptomatic patients are observed, and the fibroid may shrink after menopause without intervention. Patients with large fibroids who experience symptoms can be treated with medications or surgery.