Overview

Uterine polyps are growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus that extend into the uterine cavity. Overgrowth of cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) leads to the formation of uterine polyps, also known as endometrial polyps. These polyps are usually noncancerous (benign), although some can be cancerous or can eventually turn into cancer (precancerous polyps).

Uterine polyps range in size from a few millimeters — no larger than a sesame seed — to several centimeters — golf-ball-size or larger. They attach to the uterine wall by a large base or a thin stalk.

You can have one or many uterine polyps. They usually stay contained within your uterus, but occasionally, they slip down through the opening of the uterus (cervix) into your vagina. Uterine polyps most commonly occur in women who are going through or have completed menopause, although younger women can get them, too.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of uterine polyps include:

  • Irregular menstrual bleeding — for example, having frequent, unpredictable periods of variable length and heaviness
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Excessively heavy menstrual periods
  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • Infertility

Some women have only light bleeding or spotting; others are symptom-free.

When to see a doctor

Seek medical care if you have:

  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding

Causes

Hormonal factors appear to play a role. Uterine polyps are estrogen-sensitive, meaning they grow in response to circulating estrogen.

Risk factors

Risk factors for developing uterine polyps include:

  • Being perimenopausal or postmenopausal
  • Having high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Being obese
  • Taking tamoxifen, a drug therapy for breast cancer

Complications

Uterine polyps might be associated with infertility. If you have uterine polyps and you're unable to have children, removal of the polyps might allow you to become pregnant, but the data are inconclusive.

Aug. 29, 2015
References
  1. Stewart EA. Endometrial polyps. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 10, 2015.
  2. Cooper NAM, et al. Outpatient versus inpatient uterine polyp treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding: Randomised controlled non-inferiority study. British Medical Journal. 2015;350:h1398.
  3. Salim S, et al. Diagnosis and management of endometrial polyps: A critical review of the literature. The Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. 2011;18:569.