Uterine polyps are growths of tissue that form within the uterus as a result of overgrowth of the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus. They often appear as small, flat, soft, red, bulb-shaped bumps or tiny mushroom-like stalks on the interior wall of your uterus. They vary in size and can grow to be between a few millimeters to a few centimeters. One out of ten women will experience these growths at some point in their lives, which can lead to complications with fertility as well as menstruation.
You should seek a diagnosis from a fibroid specialist NYC because uterine polyps and uterine fibroids can be misdiagnosed. Consulting a fibroid expert like VIVA EVE is important when medical conditions are similar and hard for non-experts to distinguish. While uterine polyps are usually benign, they have the potential to become malignant if left untreated. Your fibroid doctor at VIVA EVE in New York City may discover you have one polyp or several.
Causes and Risk Factors
Like fibroids, the exact cause of uterine polyps is unknown. However, it’s believed that hormonal factors play a role. Each month, estrogen directs the uterus’ lining to thicken and shed during menstruation. It’s possible that under the influence of estrogen, uterine polyps develop in areas where the lining grows a little too much.
Uterine polyps are common among premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Less than 1 in 100 women develop uterine polyps before the age of 30. Other risk factors that increase a woman’s odds of developing polyps include being obese, having high blood pressure, and taking the breast cancer drug tamoxifen.
Symptoms of Uterine Polyps
While polyps may be asymptomatic, abnormal uterine bleeding is the most common symptom of uterine polyps. In women experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding, between 20-30 percent of cases are accounted for by polyps. Bleeding occurs because polyps dangle from their stalks. This irritates the surrounding tissue and eventually causes tissue to rub off, exposing tiny blood vessels which then bleed. Symptoms may also mimic those of fibroids. Here are the most common symptoms a woman may experience:
- Heavy periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Periods that vary in length and heaviness
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
Complications of Polyps
The main complications of uterine polyps have to do with bleeding and fertility. Uterine polyps are rarely cancerous. Only 1-2 percent of polyps become cancerous in premenopausal women, and only 5-6 percent of polyps become cancerous in women who have gone through menopause.
While not all women with uterine polyps suffer reduced fertility, there is evidence that suggests it has a detrimental effect on fertility and fertility treatment outcomes. It’s not fully understood how polyps contribute to subfertility, but congenital anomalies or structural cavity defects are suspected to have a negative impact on endometrial receptivity and implantation failure.
Heavy menstrual bleeding can also interfere with quality-of-life, especially if the blood loss leads to anemia.
Diagnosing the Polyps
If your fibroid specialist in New York City suspects polyps as the cause of your symptoms, diagnosis follows as the second step. The first step involves a thorough physical exam and discussion of your medical history. Your fibroid doctor may recommend an ultrasound to detect larger masses on your uterus.
Other options include a hysterosalpingographam (HSG) or a saline sonohysterogram, which involve filling your uterus with either dye or saline, respectively, and then using imaging technology to observe your uterus. These tests make polyps easier to observe and detect. Normally, your muscle flattens the uterus. Filling it with liquid helps your fibroid specialist observe any changes or malformations in the uterus or its lining that may be present.
In most cases, you will not receive a definite diagnosis until you get a hysteroscopy. Using a thin telescope inserted into your uterine cavity, your fibroid specialist can observe your uterus directly to help see and detect any abnormalities.
Polyp and Fibroid Treatment Options
Your treatment depends on several factors, including the number and size of your polyps. Another factor is whether a biopsy has revealed the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells. Your fibroid specialist may choose some combination of the following for the best way to treat fibroids and polyps:
- Progestin or gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists — these medications help regulate and balance your hormones
- Surgical removal during a hysteroscopy, usually through a small slender tube
- Curettage — inserting a long, metal instrument into your uterus to cut away abnormal growths
- A hysterectomy may be an appropriate treatment for you if your symptoms are severe, if you’re past child-bearing age, or if a biopsy indicates the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells
If polyps are small and removed via curettage or a hysteroscopy, you’re often able to return to normal activities within a few days. Hysterectomies take between six and eight weeks for recovery, depending on the specific method used.
An Ounce of Prevention
Certain lifestyle changes may keep polyps from recurring. Practicing good health habits helps minimize uterine polyps and their resulting symptoms. Good habits include:
- A healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to provide key nutrients to your hormone-regulating organs
- Regular exercise to maintain good cardiovascular health and weight control
- Cessation of tobacco consumption
- Reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed
Your fibroid specialist can help you address any uterine symptoms that adversely affect your health or your lifestyle, and also teach you about how to ease any pregnancy concerns. Visit VIVA EVE for a full evaluation.
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