Do you have abdominal pain that just won’t quit? Have you noticed changes in your bowel movements, such as frequent constipation or diarrhea? Both irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and fibroids cause these symptoms for millions of women.
Although IBS and fibroids share common symptoms, these conditions have different causes. They also require different treatments for effective symptom relief.
At Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, board-certified physician John M. Rivas, MD, uses advanced testing to uncover the root cause of your abdominal pain. With an accurate diagnosis in hand, Dr. Rivas creates a personalized treatment plan so you can feel better as quickly as possible.
Keep reading to learn more about the difference between IBS and fibroids and how we can help you reclaim your health.
Your colon, or large intestine, is part of your digestive system. The colon turns undigested food into stools. It also absorbs water and electrolytes.
The exact cause of IBS isn’t known. However, researchers know IBS affects how your colon works. The condition changes how food and waste move through your large intestine. These changes cause abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements.
IBS can also cause other problematic symptoms. Some of the most common signs of IBS include:
- Food intolerances
- Cramping, bloating, and gas
- Mucousy stools
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Trouble sleeping and/or fatigue
- Anxiety and depression
Your symptoms may be moderate or severe. For women with IBS, they may get worse when you have your period or are pregnant.
There’s no quick test for diagnosing IBS. You’re typically diagnosed with the condition if you have weekly pain/discomfort for at least three months and recurring symptoms for at least six months.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in your uterus. They come in many sizes, from as tiny as a small seed to larger than a grapefruit.
Fibroids are common, affecting at least 35 million American women. Women over 35 and older and Black women have a greater risk of developing these growths.
Not all women with fibroids have symptoms or experience problems. But for about seven million women, fibroids cause problematic symptoms that require medical intervention. When they occur, symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
- Heavy periods
- Long periods (over a week)
- Worsening period cramps
- Abnormal spotting/bleeding
- Lower back pain
- Pain during sex
- Urgent and/or frequent need to urinate
- Inability to completely empty your bladder
- Fullness or pressure in pelvic area
- Abdominal swelling
- Digestive symptoms
Fibroids may also cause problems with fertility, pregnancy, and labor.
Why IBS and fibroids get confused
Many women with fibroids experience troubling digestive issues, like bloating and constipation. This is because the tumors can put pressure on your bowel or intestines.
Your uterus is in front of your colon, which controls your bowel movements. Fibroids in the back wall of your uterus or very large fibroids can press against your colon. This may trigger digestive symptoms, especially constipation.
When not treated, constipation can affect your quality of life and cause complications, such as hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding and prolapse, and anal fissures. In severe cases, constipation can also trigger fecal impaction, when you can’t expel your bowel movement.
Certain types of IBS also cause constipation and symptoms similar to those triggered by fibroids. This can make it confusing to know what’s causing your discomfort.
Diagnosing abdominal pain
At the Rivas Digestive Center, treatment for abdominal pain begins with your diagnosis. Dr. Rivas talks to you about your symptoms. He also reviews your medical history and performs a comprehensive physical exam. These help narrow down the causes of your pain.
Dr. Rivas then orders different diagnostic tests based on the possible underlying causes of your condition. These may include:
- Stool tests
- Blood tests
- Diagnostic imaging (e.g., MRI, ultrasound)
- Liver function tests
- Upper endoscopy
In some cases, diagnostic laparoscopic surgery may be required to uncover the issue. This is because some causes of abdominal pain, like endometriosis, can’t be diagnosed using imaging tests.
Treating abdominal pain
With a diagnosis in hand, Dr. Rivas creates a customized treatment plan to meet your needs. Treatments vary drastically depending on the root cause and the severity of your condition. For example, IBS treatments may include one or more of the following:
- Dietary changes (e.g., eliminating trigger foods; adopting a FODMAP diet)
- Medications (e.g., antibiotics; antidepressants; anti-spasm medications)
- Bulking agents (e.g., fiber supplements)
- Probiotics or prebiotics
No matter the cause of your abdominal pain, Dr. Rivas uses his expertise and skill to help you reclaim your life and manage your pain.
Learn more about the difference between IBS and fibroids by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida.