What Are Uterine Polyps?
Uterine Polyps are inner growths in the endometrium, inside of the uterine wall, also called endometrial polyps. Endometrial polyps are formed from the overgrowth of the cells in the endometrium. These polyps are non – cancerous protrusions of the endometrial tissue. In rare cases they can eventually turn into cancer. They are usually small. However they can vary in size from some millimeters to a size of a golf ball, or even larger. They can become fragile and bleed as they grow in size. Being fragile, uterine polyps are one of the main causes of uterine bleeding. Once removed, they can reoccur. Uterine polyps can affect woman of any age, but they are more common after the age of 40. Uterine polyps can also occur after menopause.
The real cause of endometrial polyps is not known. A big role seems to play swings in the hormone levels and especially swings of estrogen levels. It is known that estrogen plays a big role every month in the thickening process of the endometrium. This appears to be also linked with the growth of uterine polyps.
Risk factors for uterine polyps include: obesity, high blood pressure and a history of cervical polyps.
How Are Uterine Polyps Diagnosed?
It is very important to do regular gynecological checkups in order to diagnose the uterine polyps in time. This is especially necessary in cases of non-cancerous or cancerous uterine polyps. Some of the methods used to diagnose uterine polyps include:
- Transvaginal ultrasound – consists of inserting a wand-like device inside of the vagina, which emits ultrasounds. Transvaginal ultrasound allows a good visualization of the interior of the uterus.
- Hysteroscopy – during this procedure a hysteroscope is inserted through the vagina and cervix, which are first dilated with the help of a speculum. Hysteroscopy is not only used for diagnosing uterine polyps, but it can also be used to remove the uterine polyps found inside of the uterus.
- Hysterosonography – consists of injecting saline inside of the uterus, which helps expand the uterus and gives a better visualization of the uterine lining.
- Curettage – consists of inserting a curette through the vagina and cervix into the uterus, which helps scrape the uterine walls. Curettage is used to take biopsy samples or even remove the uterine polyps.
Signs and Symptoms of Uterine Polyps
Endometrial polyps can be asymptomatic. However, in some cases its signs and symptoms can be severe. Usually signs and symptoms of uterine polyps include:
- Irregular menstrual bleeding – usually frequent menstrual periods and menstrual periods that vary in length and heaviness
- Spotting between menstrual periods
- Excessively heavy bleeding
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Infertility, etc.
How Are Uterine Polyps Treated?
Asymptomatic endometrial polyps require no treatment. However, in cases when signs and symptoms are present, treatment of uterine polyps is necessary. They should be treated especially in cases when they are suspected as pre-cancerous or cancerous, but also in cases when they do cause excessive bleeding. Treatment of uterine polyps consists of:
- Medications like Progestin or Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone Agonists are used to treat uterine polyps. This treatment is usually temporary and intends to regulate the hormonal balance. These medications help relieve the symptoms, but if stopped the signs and symptoms will reoccur.
- Hysteroscopy as an examination method may be also used for treatment of uterine polyps. During hysteroscopy uterine polyps can be removed.
- Curettage as an examination method may also be used for treatment of uterine polyps. With the help of a curette the uterus lining is scraped and the polyps are removed. This technique is effective for smaller polyps.
- Hysterectomy may be necessary in cases when after biopsy the uterine polyps are determined as pre – cancerous or cancerous. Hysterectomy is the surgical procedure during which the entire uterus is removed.
Uterine polyps can’t be prevented. However, regular checkups can help diagnose and treat them on time, especially in cases of pre-cancerous or cancerous endometrial polyps. Even with good treatment uterine polyps often reoccur.