Polyps are extra growths on the uterus and they often get attached to the wall of the uterus. In medical terms they are called endometrial polyps since they are caused by the endometrium which is the lining of the uterus. The polyps are not cancer causing often and only in rare cases the polyps turn into cancerous cells.
Polyps differ in size and growth ranging from just a millimeter to few centimeters or even more. Some of them grow bigger than a golf ball causing complications. The polyps stick on to the wall of the uterus through a thin stalk. Generally they are found well inside the uterus but in some cases they move down to reach the cervix region. Polyps are largely seen in women who are in menopause period.
Some of the signs of presence of polyps (in uterus) are irregular periods (lasting for several days or having no menstrual periods for several months), bleeding between the periods, excess of bleeding and bleeding after menopause time. Bleeding can be heavy and unpredictable. But for some women there may not be any symptoms and if at all they have, there would be light spotting.
It is not certain what causes growth of uterine polyps in women. It is believed to be caused by hormonal imbalance. The secretion of estrogen can directly influence the growth of polyps, the more the secretion the more the polyps’ growth will be and vice versa. Chronic inflammation of the uterus can cause polyps. Polyps can occur if there is any problem in the blood vessels of the cervix region.
Who are at risk?
Women in the postmenopausal period, women who are obese, women with hypertension and women who are taking tamoxifen are more prone to develop polyps than others. In rare cases, the growth of polyps can cause infertility. It also increases the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women and this is more specific in women who are taking IVF (in vitro fertilization) therapy. Complete removal of polyps can certainly increase the chance of getting pregnant.
The doctor would look for the above symptoms after collecting information from the concerned women and may order for few tests to diagnose polyps. She can do hysteroscopy or vaginal ultrasound or curettage procedure to examine the presence of polyps. In ultra-sonogram a long wand like instrument is placed inside the vagina that will send specific frequency of sound waves which in turn would give clear picture of the uterus. In some cases the doctor would use saline water for getting clear picture of the polyps.
During hysteroscopy the doctor would insert a thin tube that contains mini telescope into the vagina to study the inside of uterus region. In curettage the doctor would gently scrape the inner lining of the uterus to check the sample on the laboratory for the presence of polyps.
If you don’t have any problem like irregular periods or heavy bleeding even if you have polyps in uterus, then you don’t need any treatment. Very often, the polyps are non-cancerous or benign. However your doctor will send the sample tissue collected from the uterus to check for presence of cancerous cells. Hysteroscopy is the best method for treating polyps. During this procedure, your doctor will use a special device to get the maximum clear view of the uterus portion and gently remove the polyps from inside.
This is a small surgical procedure where local anesthesia is given and you can get back home on the same day. However you should avoid having sex for at least a week after undergoing hysteroscopy. Some women might have mild cramps or slight bleeding from the vagina. Taking certain hormonal drugs like gonadotropin producing hormone agonists can give you temporary relief from polyps but it can recur again.
Fertility and polyps :
Presence of polyps in the uterus can affect the way you become pregnant normally. If a woman is not able to conceive even after a year of trying it is possible that she has polyps in her uterus. Polyps can prevent the fertilized egg to get implanted in the wall of the uterus thus acting as an intra uterine device. Similarly polyps can cause miscarriage or abortion for some women.