Uterine fibroids and polyps are both abnormal growths of uterine tissue and can cause similar symptoms. Polyps grow from endometrial tissue, the tissue that lines the uterus, and fibroids are growths of uterine muscle, according to the Advanced Center for Fertility of Chicago. Both are usually noncancerous, or benign, according to Dr. Paul Indman. Polyps can grow and then disappear, while fibroids, once they develop, are permanent.
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Both polyps and fibroids can cause vaginal bleeding. Submucosal fibroids, which grow into the uterine cavity, can cause very heavy periods in addition to bleeding between periods. Polyps can cause vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods, or they can be associated with heavy or prolonged periods, according to the Mayo Clinic. Both fibroids and polyps can cause vaginal bleeding after menopause.
Numerous fibroids or fibroids that have grown very large can result in a uterus that’s larger than normal. This can be often be palpated by a medical practitioner. Polyps are generally too small to be palpated, although they may be palpated if they protrude through the cervix.
Fibroids can cause uterine cramping and discomfort. They can also press on nearby organs and tissue and cause abdominal or bladder pain. Pedunculated fibroids, which are located on the outside of the uterus and attached to the uterus by a stalk, can cause severe pain if the stalk twists. Polyps don’t usually cause pain.
Infertility or Miscarriage
Certain types of fibroids and polyps may cause infertility by interfering with implantation of an embryo. Submucosal fibroids, which impinge on the uterine cavity, can also cause miscarriage, according to the Advanced Fertility Center. Large polyps or multiple polyps may also cause miscarriage, although the connection between polyps and infertility is controversial, according to the Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic does state that the removal of polyps has resulted in a higher pregnancy rate in patients undergoing intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization in some studies.