Are These Symptoms of Endometriosis or Fibroids?

Many women’s reproductive health issues share common symptoms and this holds true for endometriosis and uterine fibroids. These conditions have some symptoms in common but the way they affect a woman’s body is very different. Determining between the two can be challenging and even more so if a woman is experiencing both conditions simultaneously. Let’s look at some endometriosis symptoms, how they compare to the symptoms of fibroids and the areas where they overlap.

What Is the Difference Between Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids?

To better understand the symptoms of endometriosis and fibroids, you must first understand these conditions.

Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the same type of cells that make up the uterine lining (cells from the endometrium) begin to grow in abnormal locations outside of the uterus. These cells can be found in the vicinity of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the pelvic region or they can rarely show up in other areas of the upper abdomen.

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous abnormal growths that are made from the same type of cells that make up the muscular layer (myometrium) of the uterus. Fibroids grow in different locations in and on the uterus and are classified by their location.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

  • Pelvic pain that usually gets worse during menstruation;
  • Abdominal pain and cramping that begins before the menstrual cycle and lasts even after the cycle is complete;
  • Abnormal or heavy bleeding during menstruation (Normal uterine lining cells may bleed but also the rogue cells forming endometriosis bleed);
  • Blood in the urine;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Pain during intercourse;
  • Infertility;
  • Diarrhea or constipation;
  • Pain with bowel movements or urination;
  • Lower back pain.

Symptoms Of Fibroids

Some women do not experience any symptoms from their fibroids while others have severe pain or systems that interfere with their ability to function.

  • Heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding;
  • Bleeding in-between menstrual cycles;
  • Pelvic pain and cramping that is usually worst during menstruation but can occur at any time;
  • Bloating;
  • Pelvic heaviness or pressure;
  • Lower back or leg pain;
  • Frequent urination;
  • Pain during intercourse;
  • Enlarged uterus;
  • Constipation;
  • Infertility;
  • Anemia;
  • Fatigue.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization in Atlanta, GA

Shared Symptoms of Endometriosis and Fibroids Can Make Diagnosis Confusing

Endometriosis and uterine fibroids share many of the same symptoms such as heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, lower back and leg pain, pain during sexual intercourse, anemia, fatigue, issues with urination and bowel movements, fertility issues, etc.

In addition, many women have both uterine fibroids and endometriosis so their symptoms are a result of both conditions combined. Over the years, studies have reported a wide range of these two conditions coexisting in 20-80% of all women who are diagnosed with fibroids.

Some women who experience these symptoms do not seek help because they do not know that these symptoms are not normal. As women, most of us are given the basics right before we begin our menstrual cycles, and then we are left to flounder on our own so we have no point of reference for what is normal. Let’s face it, most of us do not converse over lunch with our girlfriends about our menstruation flow issues.

Diagnosing Fibroid or Endometriosis Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms or a combination of those listed in this article, the best course of action would be to make an appointment with your doctor and undergo appropriate imaging.

Sometimes fibroids can be diagnosed during a pelvic exam or identified through vaginal ultrasound but endometriosis is more of a challenge to diagnose. An MRI scan is the most helpful for diagnosing endometriosis and requires a radiologist that is an expert in recognizing the various imaging manifestations of the disease. However, in most cases, obtaining a definitive endometriosis diagnosis requires exploratory laparoscopic surgery.

Treatment for Symptoms of Endometriosis and Fibroids

Unfortunately, there is no known cause of endometriosis or a known cure. The first course of action for a woman who is diagnosed with endometriosis is normally to try to manage the symptoms with pain medication and/or hormone therapy. Surgery may then be considered for women who do not respond to conservative management.

Fibroids, like endometriosis, have no known cause and the medications available for treatment only help manage symptoms in the short term.

Surgical options for fibroids include myomectomy (the surgical removal of fibroids which may be ineffective for certain types of fibroids and many women experience regrowth within five years that require another surgery) and hysterectomy (the total removal of a woman’s uterus that often has long-term side effects). Both myomectomy and hysterectomy have risks and complications associated with them as well as some long-term side effects and extended recovery times.

Fortunately, unlike endometriosis, fibroids can be eliminated through a non-surgical procedure called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). This 45-minute outpatient procedure cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids causing them to shrink and die. It will treat any type of fibroid that is attached to the uterine blood supply even if they are deeply embedded.

UFE offers a short recovery time of only about a week and women have experienced relief from their debilitating symptoms as early as their first period after the procedure.

To learn more about UFE, contact The Atlanta Fibroid Center and set up a consultation today! Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout are two of the leading experts on UFE in the country and have helped over 10,000 women become fibroid free.

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