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Fibroids Vs. PCOS: What Are The Similarities And The Differences?

PCOS, or Polycystic ovary syndrome, and fibroids, or uterine fibroids, are two of the most common and well-known female health conditions. Dealing with these two diseases can often feel like battling a storm within your body, as hormonal imbalances create turbulence both physically and emotionally. It affects menstrual patterns and causes major pelvic discomfort. 

So the question is, if they look the same, cause the same kind of problems, and are triggered by the same conditions, then is there a definitive connection? Let’s find out everything about uterine fibroids vs. PCOS!

A] Understanding Fibroids

Understanding Fibroids

Image Source: Mayo Clinic

Fibroids are also known as myomas or leiomyomas. These are benign tumours that cause chronic pain and excessive uterine bleeding. The shape, size, and location of these tumours are not fixed. It can be the size of a grain of sand or grow as large as a pumpkin, which can broaden and warp the uterus.

It can grow anywhere within the uterine wall – from the inner lining (submucosal), within the muscle (intramural), to just beneath the outer surface (subserosal) of the uterus. For more detailed information, you can check our in-depth Uterine Fibroids guide.

B] Understanding PCOS

Understanding PCOS

Image Source: Mayo Clinic

PCOS is comparatively complex, as it is a condition in which the ovaries create an unusual amount of male sex hormones or androgens. It is usually present in women in small amounts. This is the primary reason why PCOS causes hormonal imbalances, develops multiple cysts inside your ovary, and disrupts your menstrual cycle.

Now the question is, does PCOS cause fibroids? The answer is no. PCOS does not have any effects on fibroid development. The symptoms and acuteness of PCOS can vary greatly from person to person. It is characterised by a combination of hormonal imbalances, enlarged ovaries containing small cysts, etc.

Missed, irregular, or very light periods, enlarged ovaries, cysts, infertility, excessive body hair in the chest, back, and stomach, weight gain, male-pattern baldness or thinning hair are all symptoms of PCOS. Making lifestyle changes like a PCOS diet can help you manage these symptoms.

C] Similarities between PCOS and Fibroids

Even though PCOS and fibroids are two different women’s health conditions, they share some common traits that underline their impact on reproductive health and overall well-being. It is important to understand these similarities for effective management of these conditions and accurate diagnosis. Let’s delve into the overlapping aspects of PCOS and fibroids:

  • Affect Reproductive Health: 

Women diagnosed with PCOS and fibroids often battle the odds for motherhood, as these conditions introduce unique challenges to becoming a parent. It disrupts ovulation and menstrual cycles, causing irregular or absent periods, which directly affects fertility. In the same way, uterine fibroids can interfere with conception. It affects embryo implantation or distorts the uterine cavity.

  • Hormonal Imbalance 

Dealing with PCOS and fibroids is almost like riding the hormonal roller coaster. With androgen spikes and oestrogen-progesterone shifts dictating the twists and turns of health experiences, PCOS involves elevated androgen levels and insulin resistance, impacting hormonal equilibrium. These imbalances contribute to symptom development and progression.

  • Menstrual Irregularities

Those with PCOS and fibroids can feel stuck in the carousel of unpredictable menstrual flows and irregular or infrequent bleeding patterns. These irregularities can cause discomfort, inconvenience, and sometimes even emotional distress.

  • Fertility Challenges 

Because of irregular ovulation and uterine hurdles, both fibroids and PCOS can turn the path to fertility into an uphill climb. While PCOS makes conception difficult, fibroids can interfere with embryo implantation or cause miscarriages. To manage PCOS and its impact on fertility, one requires immense determination and support. 

  • Impact on Quality of Life 

Dealing with PCOS and fibroids can sometimes feel like a tug of war for self-esteem, as emotional stress and physical manifestations test one’s confidence and body image. While physical symptoms like hirsutism or pelvic discomfort affect self-esteem and body image, menstrual irregularities, pain, and concerns about fertility contribute to emotional stress and anxiety.

  • Treatment Options 

Women suffering from PCOS and fibroids can sculpt the path to wellness with treatment strategies that help relieve discomfort and mold a better quality of life. Even though the treatment approaches for PCOS and fibroids differ, both focus on lifestyle modifications, watchful waiting, and medication to reduce symptoms.

  • Ultrasound Imaging 

Through ultrasound imaging, the puzzling pieces of PCOS and fibroids fall into place, creating a more precise picture that guides diagnosis and treatment. For PCOS, ultrasound helps picture how the ovary is looking and the follicle count. In fibroids, ultrasound provides insights into the location, size, and number of growth.

  • Influence on Hormonal Birth Control 

Hormonal birth control acts as a tailor-made solution for the woes of both PCOS and fibroids. It gives custom-fitting relief for menstrual irregularities and bleeding. In PCOS, it regulates menstrual cycles and reduces androgen-related symptoms. For fibroids, it can help control heavy bleeding and alleviate discomfort.

D] Differences between PCOS and Fibroids

Even though these are distinct health conditions, understanding PCOS and fibroids differences is essential for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment. Let’s check out fibroids vs. PCOS:

1. Underlying Cause

PCOS is all about hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and genetic predispositions. It causes irregular ovulation, elevated androgen levels, and the development of small ovarian cysts. But, in uterine fibroids, tumours grow from the muscular wall of the uterus because of genetic factors and hormonal fluctuations. They can vary in location within the uterus, size, and number.

2. Location in the Body

Polycystic ovary syndrome, the name itself suggests that it primarily happens in ovaries. That is why hormonal imbalances disrupt your regular ovulation and menstrual cycles. On the other hand, fibroids grow within the uterine wall, causing various symptoms that affect fertility and discomfort.

3. Symptoms

PCOS usually causes insulin resistance. That is why it is infamous for its irregular or absent periods, excessive hair growth, acne, and sometimes even obesity. But, if you suffer from fibroids, you might face heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, pelvic pressure, and pain during sexual intercourse.

4. Menstrual Patterns

As PCOS is an ovarian syndrome, it often leads to irregular or absent periods. However, when it comes to fibroids, it can cause heavy, prolonged periods due to their direct effect on the uterine lining.

5. Fertility Impact

Because of PCOS, you might face irregular ovulation and hormonal imbalances, which interfere with conception. But, fibroids can influence fertility by hindering embryo implantation or distorting the uterine cavity.

6. Hormonal Imbalances

When dealing with PCOS, it contains elevated androgen levels and insulin resistance, causing irregular periods and symptoms like hirsutism and acne. On the other hand, fibroids respond to oestrogen and progesterone. They tend to grow during hormonal surges, such as pregnancy and might also regress after menopause due to hormonal changes.

7. Diagnostic Imaging

PCOS involves clinical assessment, hormonal testing, and ultrasound imaging. It helps visualize the ovaries and assess their appearance and follicle count. However, detecting fibroids involves pelvic examinations, ultrasounds, and occasionally MRI scans.

8. Treatment Approaches

PCOS Treatment includes regulating menstrual cycles, addressing hormonal imbalances, and mitigating associated health risks through lifestyle modifications, medications, and PCOS-specific interventions. Treatment for Fibroids includes watchful waiting for asymptomatic cases to medication, minimally invasive procedures, or surgical removal, depending on the severity of symptoms and size of the fibroid.

9. Risk of Cancer

PCOS does not directly increase the risk of cancer but is related to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular issues  as well as type 2 diabetes due to insulin resistance. Even though fibroids are non-cancerous, they might slightly elevate the risk of uterine cancer, mainly if submucosal fibroids are present.

Conclusion

While PCOS and fibroids may exhibit identical symptoms and impact women’s reproductive health, their underlying causes, locations, symptoms, and treatment approaches set them apart. By staying informed, you can seek professional medical advice for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. 

Contact us today to take the first step if you are suffering from any of the symptoms or uncertainties related to PCOS or fibroids. Your well-being matters, and our experts are here to provide the clarity and assistance you need.