Uterine Polyps vs. Uterine Fibroids

The Same Only Different

Uterine polyps and uterine fibroids tend to have similar effects upon a woman's reproductive processes, acting very much the way an intra-uterine contraceptive device would act in the uterus. Both polyps and fibroids are hormonally induced growths and treatment for both tends to be invasive. Both are benign (non-cancerous) uterine growths and both have the potential to cause fertility problems and recurrent miscarriages.

Composition and Texture of Polyps

However, they are very different in many ways as well. The composition and textures differ in that polyps are an overgrowth of endometrial tissue, arising from the inner lining of the uterus. The lining of the uterus (endometrial tissue) is expelled during menses and regenerates quickly through the influence of hormones. Polyps occur in places where the lining grows in excess.

Uterine polyps are either oval or round and they are attached to the uterine wall by either a stalk (pedunculated) or a large base (sessile). Pedunculated polyps are more common than sessile polyps. Their size ranges from a few millimeters to several centimeters and, if they are on a stalk they can protrude through the uterus and cervix into the vagina. Small blood vessels are often present in larger polyps.

Composition and Texture of Fibroids

The composition and texture of fibroids differs from polyps considerably since fibroids are made up of muscle tissue. They usually grow within the muscle walls of the uterus and then into the cavity, pushing outward toward the uterus. Unless a uterine fibroid is causing problems such as pelvic pain, bleeding or heavy menstrual periods, they usually don't require treatment. Any type of fibroid can cause infertility and miscarriage. Fibroids can be very small, measuring only a few centimeters, or they can grow to the size of an orange or melon.

Polyps may regress at any stage, however fibroids do not regress. They may shrink, but that only happens after menopause when they are no longer being fed by the flow of estrogen in the woman's body.

Symptoms of Polyps

The symptoms of these growths differ as well. Uterine polyp symptoms include:

· irregular menstrual bleeding that varies in duration and heaviness

· sporting or bleeding between menstrual periods

· infertility

· vaginal bleeding after menopause

· pain if the polyp protrudes through the cervix into the vagina

The symptoms of fibroids include:

· pelvic pain or pressure

· very heavy and prolonged menstrual periods

· enlarged abdomen which may be mistaken for pregnancy or weight gain

· pressure on the bladder causing a constant need to urinate

· incontinence or inability to empty the bladder

· pressure on the bowel leading to constipation and/or bloating

· pain during intercourse

· pain in the back of the legs

Fibroids are more common in women than polyps and typically they manifest during the mid to later reproductive years. Often, fibroids are asymptomatic, that is, they don't produce symptoms. However, they can grow and cause many of the symptoms listed above. Polyps are rare in women younger than 20. The incidence of them tends to rise as women get older and it is women in their 50s who are at the peak age for occurrence. The incidence declines after menopause.

Fertility and Treatment

In women who are undergoing IVF treatment, polyps can increase the risk of miscarriage. If they grow near the fallopian tubes, they can interfere with conception. Often treatments to remove polyps are effective, however recurrence of endometrial polyps is common and frequent. If they are left untreated, they may regress on their own.

There is no non-invasive treatment for polyps but there is for fibroids. Some types of fibroid tumors can be treated with noninvasive MR guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery. This new method of treating fibroids is effective with a short recovery time. There is no need for drugs and the treatment is over in one session.

Female infertility can be caused by a number of different issues. This section will help you recognize and understand the various situations and give you ideas for treatment.

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