Fibroids vs Polyps: A Detailed Comparison Between Distinct Conditions

Aarohi Batra
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fibroids vs polyps

Women tend to have certain medical problems that affect their reproductive system and bring changes to their quality of life.

Two of these conditions are fibroids and polyps.

Fibroids are clinically apparent among 25% of women of reproductive age, as per Radiology.org.

Polyps, on the other hand, are recognized to affect up to 40% of the general population and are more frequent in older age women.

However, these conditions have certain dissimilarities and need to be considered for proper treatment and effective management.

This comprehensive article will elaborate on fibroids vs polyps and provide detailed characteristics of these distinct conditions.

Overview of polyps vs fibroids

The overview below briefly explains the various aspects of the difference between polyps and fibroids:

AspectsFibroidsPolyps
AppearanceUterine growthsA projecting growth of tissue
Made up ofSmooth musclesEndometrial (uterine) tissues
LocationsAlmost anywhere within the uterusEndometrium, cervix, vagina, rectum, colon, ear, etc
CommonIt can affect women of all ages but is most common in 30 to 40 years womenMore common in women ages 20 to 40
SizeOne millimeter to 20 centimetersA few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter
Cancerous or noncancerousNoncancerousUsually noncancerous but can become cancerous
SymptomsHeavy periods, difficulty in bowel movement, fertility problemsInfertility, postmenopausal vaginal bleeding, and irregular periods
CausesChanges in genes, hormones, early menarche, etcChanges in genes
Risk factorsGenetics, overweight, and heavy dietHigh blood pressure, overweight, and postmenopause
DiagnosisUltrasound, MRI, hysterosonographyEndometrial biopsy, hysteroscopy, ultrasound
TreatmentMedications and surgeryMedications and surgical process

What are uterine fibroids and polyps

Uterine fibroids, also recognized as Leiomyomas or Myomas, are benign tumors in the wall of the uterus (womb).

These fibroids are the most common type of uterine growth in women of reproductive age.

Conversely, polyps can be understood as a projecting growth of tissue from the body’s surface.

What are polyps and fibroids made up of

Uterine fibroids are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue.

On the other hand, the polyp is the growth of an organ, usually a mucus membrane.

Fact:
Fibroids affect up to 68.6% of reproductive-age women, as per a 2023 report, which included the global, regional and national incidence of uterine fibroids from 1990 to 2019.

Appearance of fibroids vs polyps

As per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fibroids’ size, shape, and location can vary.

The fibroids can range in size from pea-sized small growths to others, which can range up to several inches.

Polyps, on the other hand, are long projections and can grow up to several centimeters in the uterine region.

Where are polyps and fibroids found

Uterine fibroids are found in the proximity of the uterus lining.

Of course, they can be found inside or outside the lining, but in rare cases, fibroids can develop in the cervix.

Unlike fibroids, which are confined to the uterine region, polyps can develop in a range of body parts, such as:

  • Ear canal
  • Rectum
  • Colon
  • Uterus
  • Nose
  • Bladder
  • Throat
  • Cervix
  • Stomach
  • Gall bladder
  • Skin

Fibroids vs polyps symptoms

Pelvic painSource: Syda_Productions
Woman suffering from cramps

Fibroids may include the following symptoms:

  • Menstrual pain
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Difficulty in urination and bowel movements
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Miscarriages
  • Infertility

Polyps do not necessarily show obvious symptoms.

If present, the symptoms of polyps depend on the types of polyps and which body part they affect.

The symptoms in the following regions of the body are:

  • Uterine polyps: Irregular menstrual bleeding, difficulty in conceiving, and painful sexual experience
  • Ear canal polyps: Loss of hearing, ear discharge with a foul smell
  • Colorectal polyps: Abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and blood in stool
  • Cervical polyps: Abnormal vaginal bleeding and vaginal discharge
  • Nasal polyps: Pain in the nose, flu-like symptoms, and loss of smell
  • Throat polyps: Feeling of having a lump in the throat, breathy voice, and horse sound
  • Bladder polyps: Frequent urination with pain and blood in urine
  • Stomach polyps: Nausea, vomiting, and pain with bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Skin: They do not cause any obvious symptoms
  • Gall bladder polyps: Do not cause symptoms
Warning:
The symptoms of fibroids and polys can exacerbate without early diagnosis and proper treatment. Consult a healthcare practitioner and seek prompt medical attention.

What causes fibroids vs polyps

The exact cause of uterine fibroids remains unknown.

However, Estrogen is a common culprit to cause fibroids and polyps in women.

Estrogen is the significant cause of polyps, as polyps are Estrogen-sensitive and tend to grow under the influence of Estrogen levels and fluctuations. 

Fibroids, on the other hand, can be caused by a range of other factors also, such as:

  • Gene changes: Changes in genes are observed in fibroids that are different from the typical uterine muscle cells
  • Estrogen: Higher Estrogen is associated with helping fibroids to grow in the uterus. Further, Progesterone is essential for the growth and maintenance of uterine fibroids
  • Insulin-like growth factor: Insulin-like growth factors that help the body maintain tissues can also elevate the chances of fibroids
  • Extracellular Matrix (ECM): ECM is a material that helps cells to bind with each other. ECM is higher in fibroids
  • Stem cells: It is believed that the body’s stem cells can also develop uterine fibroids

Risk factors associated with polyps and fibroids

Being obese is a common risk factor for both polyps and fibroids.

On the other hand, endometrial polyps are recognized to be caused by risk factors associated with Estrogen levels in the body, such as perimenopause or postmenopause.

Further, there are numerous risk factors associated with the development of uterine fibroids occurring in women of reproductive age, including the following:

  • Demographic factors: African American women are at a higher risk of developing uterine fibroids than other racial groups
  • Family history: Women with a family history of uterine fibroids are at a higher risk of developing them
  • Early menarche: Women who get their first period (menarche) before 10 have a likelihood of developing fibroids
  • Obesity: Being overweight is the contributing factor leading to the development of fibroids
  • Alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption is also associated with uterine fibroids
  • Low Vitamin D: Deficiency of Vitamin D can also increase the risk of fibroids
  • Unhealthy diet: Having a diet with excessive red meat and lower in fruits, green vegetables, and dairy products

How to diagnose polyps and fibroids

Ultrasound checkup for regular monitoringSource: undefined_undefined_from_Getty_Images
A doctor is using ultrasound scanner for checkup

Fibroids and uterine polyps can be diagnosed similarly with the help of the following diagnostic tests:

  • An ultrasound
  • Hysteroscopy

However, fibroids can be diagnosed with the following tests in addition to the common ways:

  • Lab tests
  • Hysterosonography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Hysterosalpingography

On the other hand, uterine polyps can be diagnosed with Endometrial biopsy.

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Treatment

Fibroids can be treated easily with medical, non-surgical, and radiological-guided treatments.

Further, Gonadotropin-Releasing hormone Agonists and selective Progesterone receptor modulators are also effective treatments.

However, polyps need hormonal medications such as Progestins and Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists and require surgical invasion to treat the condition.

Conclusion

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors in the uterus wall, whereas polyps are projecting tissue growth from a surface of the body, usually a mucus membrane.

Uterine fibroids are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. On the other hand, the polyp is the growth of an organ, usually a mucus membrane.

The fibroids can range in size from pea-sized small growths to several inches. However, polyps are long projections and can grow up to several centimeters in the uterine region.

Uterine fibroids are found in the proximity of the uterus lining, whereas polyps can be found in the ear canal, uterus, cervix, stomach, etc.

Fibroids can show symptoms such as menstrual irregularity and pain during sex, while polyps can show a variety of symptoms depending on the location of the polyps grown.

These conditions are caused due to hormonal changes and other factors.

They can be diagnosed with an ultrasound, hysteroscopy, hysterosalpingography, and laparoscopy.

Therefore, consult a healthcare practitioner and seek prompt medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are polyps or fibroids worse?

Yes, both fibroids and polyps are worse for the quality of a female life. Fibroids are recognized to affect the uterine region, while polyps can be found in the various regions of the body. Fibroids and polyps can cause a range of symptoms, including painful sexual experiences and fertility issues.

What are the symptoms of fibroids and polyps?

The symptoms of fibroids include pain during sex, menstrual pain, abdominal cramps, difficulty in urination and bowel movements. It can also cause infertility and miscarriage. On the other hand, the symptoms of polyps can vary depending on their location, whereas uterine polyps can cause irregular menstrual bleeding and fertility issues.

Does ultrasound show fibroids or polyps?

Yes, an ultrasound can be used to recognize polyps and fibroids. Ultrasound is a diagnostic approach to finding polyps or fibroids. Other diagnostic approaches may be used depending on the severity of the condition.

Do polyps turn into fibroids?

No, polyps do not turn into fibroids or vice versa. The conditions are different in appearance, symptoms, and causes. Consult a healthcare practitioner for other details and treatment.

Citations:
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