Fibroids vs Polyps: Similar Symptoms of Different Conditions

Are you experiencing pelvic pain? You should not ignore it. Sometimes, this is the first and key symptom of uterine fibroids, endometriosis, polyps, or other women’s reproductive health conditions.

Why is recognizing the difference between fibroids and polyps important? Both can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe, but by definition, fibroids are non-cancerous.  However, in rare instances, some types of uterine polyps can turn into cancer. Therefore, you should be checked out and monitored by a doctor who can watch for any significant changes in the growth size or associated symptoms.  Let’s take a look at some factors that can help determine if you may be dealing with a fibroid or polyp.

What Is the Difference between Fibroids and Polyps?

What’s the difference between fibroids and polyps in the uterus?  Fibroids and polyps are both abnormal growths that have similar symptoms but differ in nature and treatment approaches.

While both are growths in the uterus, the tissue they contain is very different.  Fibroids are made of the same type of dense fibrous tissue contained in the muscular layer of the uterus and polyp consists of uterine tissue that makes up the inner lining (endometrial tissue). This is the lining that sheds each month during menstruation.

Other Differences Between Fibroids Vs Polyps

  1. Polyps may eventually decrease and even completely disappear without any type of intervention while uterine fibroids rarely go away on their own.
  2. Polyps are usually small in size. Untreated fibroids can range in size from a pearl to a large pumpkin.
  3. Fibroids most often produce symptoms in women between 35-45 years old. Polyps can occur in young and post-menopausal women alike.

Some Similarities Between Polyps Vs Fibroids

  1. A patient can have one or multiple fibroids or polyps;
  2. A woman can experience the urge to urinate frequently if either grows large in size;
  3. The pain caused by these growths can affect the abdomen, lower back, or legs;
  4. Fibroids and polyps can cause abnormal or heavy bleeding;
  5. Both of these conditions can affect fertility.

Where Do Polyps and Fibroids Come From?

The truth is that the exact reasons for uterine fibroids and polyps remain a mystery however researchers do know some factors that can influence their growth.

Uterine fibroid development may be influenced by genetics, age, obesity,  race, how young menstruation begins, and other factors.  While it is unknown exactly what causes fibroids,  we do know that fibroids respond to estrogen (female hormone).

When a woman’s estrogen levels are elevated, particularly during pregnancy, uterine fibroids tend to grow.  Fibroids also are more likely to appear when a woman is exposed to excess estrogen such as in her diet, beauty products, or taking contraceptive pills that contain estrogen.  Reduced estrogen levels seem to help shrink fibroids, which usually happens naturally after menopause.

Similar to uterine fibroids, the exact origin of polyps is still unknown but we know they also respond and grow when exposed to estrogen.  Transitioning into menopause,  high blood pressure, obesity, and some medications such as tamoxifen elevate a woman’s risk of experiencing polyps.

When You Need to Consult a Doctor

Fibroid symptoms can be very similar to the symptoms of polyps. However, tiny uterine fibroids and small polyps can be entirely asymptomatic and a woman may not suspect that she has them. Symptoms usually start to appear when the growths start increasing in size.

The Top 5 Common Symptoms of Fibroids and Polyps

  1. Prolonged or heavy periods;
  2. Chronic abdominal pain;
  3. Bleeding or spotting between periods;
  4. Post-menopausal vaginal bleeding
  5. Infertility
  6. How Are Fibroids vs Polyps Diagnosed?

Usually, a doctor can distinguish one condition from another through a pelvic exam followed by confirmation through imaging scans.  Some polyps and fibroids can be detected using vaginal ultrasound but an MRI scan allows the doctor a clearer view.  The quality of an MRI 3-D image helps the doctor to determine the type of tumor as well as the size, location, and number present.<//section>

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