Vaginal Cysts and Uterine Fibroids are more common than you thought!
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy from Pexels
Written by Sumayyah Namusabi
Most women develop vaginal cysts and uterine fibroids at some point in their life (usually during their childbearing years). In most cases, they do not show symptoms or even ever know they have these growths.
On the other hand, some women may experience a handful of symptoms which may include abdominal pains, irregular periods or even infertility.
Let's look at them individually;
What are vaginal cysts?
Cysts are small to large sac-like lumps with air, fluid, or other substances inside them. They can grow anywhere in the body including the vagina (usually on or under the vaginal lining).
Most of the time they are benign, non-cancerous, small and don’t cause symptoms. However, they can enlarge overtime and lead to increased pain, discomfort during sex or while inserting a tampon.
Vaginal cysts develop for different reasons and may be caused by injury to the vagina through childbirth, benign tumors in the vagina, or a fluid buildup.
- Inclusion cyst: This type of vaginal cyst is the most common usually caused by an injury to the wall of the vagina (may occur during childbirth or after a surgery). They are located at the back of the vagina wall.
- Bartholin's cyst: This cyst is formed when skin grows over the Bartholin's glands (located near the opening of the vagina) and collects fluid into it. They are usually painless
- Gartner's duct cyst: Gartner's duct is an embryological remnant in the female pelvis which can form a vaginal cyst later in life when it accumulates fluid.
Diagnosis and treatment.
For a proper diagnosis, you’ll need to see your doctor or gynecologist to run an exam and additional tests to conclude on the matter.
These tests may include;
- An MRI scan, CT scan, or ultrasound to capture the actual image of a cyst.
- A biopsy of a tissue sample from the cyst to find out if its cancerous.
- Tests on vaginal discharge to determine if an infection is present.
Vaginal cysts are usually monitored for changes in appearance through your routine health checkups. If cysts become infected or abscess, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and if it enlarges and causes a lot of pain and discomfort, your doctor may recommend surgery for removal.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Fibroids are abnormal growths that develop in or on the wall of the uterus (womb). Other medical terms for fibroids include leiomyomas, myomas or fibromas. Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous) and can grow as one or multiple tumors in the uterus.
Signs & Symptoms
They can sometimes become quite large and may lead to severe pains (abdominal, pelvic, back or leg pains), heavy and longer menstrual bleeding, constipation, frequent urination and difficulty to empty bladder.
These symptoms can be influenced by the location, size and number of fibroids. It is advised to see a doctor when these symptoms occur. In rare cases, further complications can affect pregnancy or cause infertility.
Causes of fibroids are unclear though researchers think that more than one factor could lead to their formation. These factors can be;
- Hormonal: Affected by estrogen and progesterone levels during each menstrual cycles
- Genetical: If your family has a history of this condition, you may develop it as well). Risk groups may include women of age 30-40, obese women and black women (black women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women
- Subserosal fibroids: They develop on the outside of your uterus.
- Intramural fibroids: These appear within the uterine wall and can become very large and stretch your womb.
- Submucosal fibroids: These types of tumors develop in the uterine inner layer or myometrium.
Diagnosis and treatment.
If you have symptoms of uterine fibroids, you’ll need to see your doctor to get a pelvic exam. Your doctor may order additional tests like Ultrasound and pelvic MRI for image confirmation of the fibroids.
Treatments may differ according to the size & location of your fibroids, your age or overall health. Talk to your doctor about the different options of treating fibroids. Some of them may include;
- Natural remedies: Avoid consumption of red meats, ham and high calories foods. If you are overweight, eat more greens and exercise for weight loss. Find calming activities like Yoga to manage your stress.
- Surgery: There different ways this might be done to remove very large or multiple fibroids. With Myomectomy, fibroids are removed without taking out the healthy tissue of the uterus. It is best for women who wish to have children in the future. Fibroids may grow back after this surgery. For a proven permanent solution, your physician may perform a hysterectomy. The Uterus is removed and this ends your ability to bear children.
- Minimally invasive procedures: These procedures can destroy uterine fibroids without major surgeries. For example, Myolysis - Usage of electric current or freezing is used to destroy the fibroids. Uterine artery embolization - Small particles are injected into the blood vessels that supply blood to fibroids. Blood flow is cut off causing them to shrink and die. Endometrial ablation - Uterine lining is destroyed using heat, electric current, hot water, or extreme cold to control heavy bleeding. A woman cannot have children after this surgery but birth control is needed to avoid an ectopic pregnancy.
- Anti-hormonal drugs: Used for symptom relief without bone-thinning side effects.
With procedures that don’t involve the removal of the uterus, there's a risk that new fibroids could form and cause symptoms.
Vaginal cysts and uterine fibroids can be pretty common among young women and the difference between the two is subtle, so it is important to get a proper medical diagnosis through an examination conducted by your doctor whenever you have the signs & symptoms mentioned above.
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