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).
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.
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.
The symptoms of uterine polyps include the following:
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 percent of these cases.
The inability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term may also be signs that uterine polyps are present.
Your doctor will ask you about your menstrual history, including how long your periods last and how often you have them. You should mention any unusual symptoms that you are experiencing, such as excessive bleeding or spotting between periods. The doctor will also ask whether you have had any difficulty becoming pregnant.
The doctor will also perform a gynecological exam and may order additional tests or procedures. Ask your doctor if any treatments such as antibiotics, pain medications, or medication to ease dilation of the cervix are recommended before the procedure.
These tests may include the following:
Treatment may not be necessary if the polyps do not cause any symptoms. However, polyps should be treated if they cause heavy bleeding during menstrual periods, or if they are suspected to be precancerous or cancerous. They should be removed if they cause problems during pregnancy, such as a miscarriage, or result in infertility in women who want to become pregnant. If a polyp is discovered after menopause, it should be removed.
Methods of treatment include the following:
There is no way to prevent uterine polyps. It's important to have regular gynecological checkups. Risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, or taking tamoxifen to treat breast cancer may increase the chance of developing polyps. Uterine polyps sometimes return after treatment, and additional treatment may be necessary.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 09/28/2018