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Fibroids
Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of fibroids may include:

  • Heavy Vaginal Bleeding — Excessively heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding is a common symptom. Women describe soaking through sanitary protection in less than an hour, passing blood clots and being unable to leave the house during the heaviest day of flow. As a result, some women develop anemia, also known as a low blood count. Anemia can cause fatigue, headaches and lightheadedness.

    If heavy bleeding interferes with your everyday activities or if you develop anemia, you should see your doctor to discuss fibroid treatment options.
  • Pelvic Discomfort — Women with large fibroids may feel heaviness or pressure in their lower abdomen or pelvis. Often this is described as a vague discomfort rather than a sharp pain. Sometimes, the enlarged uterus makes it difficult to lie face down, bend over or exercise without discomfort.
  • Pelvic Pain — A less common symptom is acute, severe pain. This occurs when a fibroid goes through a process called degeneration. Usually, the pain is localized to a specific spot and improves on its own within two to four weeks. Using a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, can decrease the pain significantly. However, chronic pelvic pain can also occur. This type of pain is usually mild but persistent and confined to a specific area.
  • Bladder Problems — The most common bladder symptom is needing to urinate frequently. A woman may wake up several times during the night to empty her bladder. Occasionally, women are unable to urinate despite a full bladder.

    These symptoms are caused by fibroids pressing against the bladder, reducing its capacity for holding urine or blocking the outflow of urine. Treatment for bladder problems can provide great relief.
  • Low Back Pain — Rarely, fibroids press against the muscles and nerves of the lower back and cause back pain. A large fibroid on the back surface of the uterus is more likely to cause back pain than a small fibroid within the uterine wall. Because back pain is so common, it is important to look for other causes of the pain before attributing it to fibroids.
  • Rectal Pressure — Fibroids also can press against the rectum and cause a sensation of rectal fullness, difficulty having a bowel movement or pain with bowel movements. Sometimes, fibroids can lead to the development of a hemorrhoid.
  • Discomfort or Pain With Sexual Intercourse — Fibroids can make sexual intercourse painful or uncomfortable. The pain may occur only in specific positions or during certain times of the menstrual cycle. Discomfort during intercourse is a significant issue. If your doctor doesn't ask you about this symptom, make sure you mention it.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Women's Health Center

Comprehensive Fibroid Center
2356 Sutter St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143-1648
Phone: (415) 885-7788
Fax: (415) 353-9550
Appointment information