What are uterine polyps?
Uterine polyps are growths that occur in the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus (the organ in which a fetus grows). For that reason, they are sometimes called endometrial polyps.
Uterine polyps are formed by the overgrowth of endometrial tissue. They are attached to the endometrium by a thin stalk or a broad base and extend inward into the uterus. The polyps may be round or oval, and range in size from a few millimeters (the size of a sesame seed) to a few centimeters (the size of a golf ball), or larger. There may be one or several polyps present. Uterine polyps are usually benign (noncancerous), but they may cause problems with menstruation (periods) or fertility (the ability to have children).
Who is affected by uterine polyps?
Uterine polyps are more likely to develop in women who are between 40 and 50 years old than in younger women. Uterine polyps can occur after menopause but rarely occur in women under 20 years old.
Your chances of developing uterine polyps may increase if you are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure (hypertension) or are taking tamoxifen, a drug that is used to treat breast cancer.
What causes uterine polyps?
The exact reason that polyps form is unknown, but swings in hormone levels may be a factor. Estrogen, which plays a role in causing the endometrium to thicken each month, also appears to be linked to the growth of uterine polyps.
What are the symptoms of uterine polyps?
The symptoms of uterine polyps include the following:
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Unusually heavy flow during menstrual periods
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding after menopause
The most common symptom of uterine polyps is irregular or unpredictable menstrual periods. Most women have periods that last four to seven days. A woman's period usually occurs every 28 days, but normal menstrual cycles can range from 21 days to 35 days. Approximately half of women with uterine polyps have irregular periods.
Other symptoms include prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), bleeding between periods, and bleeding after menopause or sexual intercourse. Uterine polyps are the cause of abnormal bleeding in about 25% of these cases.
The inability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term may also be signs that uterine polyps are present.