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Fibroids vs Cysts

Women’s pelvic health conditions often share similar symptoms, making it hard to know exactly what’s wrong. 

Fibroids and cysts are one example. They are both common conditions of the female reproductive tract. They have related symptoms but different causes, treatment, and potential complications.1 To further confuse matters, fibroids are sometimes referred to as fibroid cysts, which is a misconception.2

These growths in the female reproductive system may at times be treated as reproductive disorders, since there is a chance they interfere with fertility. To diagnose these growths, doctors need to conduct a regular examination of symptoms.1

Let’s take a look at fibroids vs. cysts.

What are Fibroids?

Fibroids are fairly common and are most often non-cancerous tumors that grow typically on the uterine wall. It’s not certain what causes fibroids, but some indications are getting your period early, or having no history of pregnancy.

Many fibroids go unnoticed with no symptoms or minimal ones. However, fibroids can lead to miscarriage or infertility.

Some of the indications of fibroids are:

  • prolonged or heavy bleeding during or in between menstrual cycles
  • painful periods, which can be caused by many other factors
  • postmenopausal bleeding
  • abdominal pain or pelvic cramping
  • low back pain
  • pain or pressure during sexual intercourse
  • protruding abdomen 
  • frequent urination or difficulty emptying your bladder

Fibroids are muscle tumors that are also known as myomas, and are the most common solid pelvic tumors in women. They can be found in up to 70 percent of women, causing symptoms in approximately 25 percent of reproductive age women. They are usually found in women during their 30’s and 40’s, shrinking after menopause.3

What are Cysts?

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops inside or outside an ovary. It also can be undetected as it often doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort.2

Most cysts are harmless, and sometimes women have no symptoms. Some cysts – particularly large cysts – result in the following symptoms:

  • pelvic or abdominal pain or pressure
  • bloating 
  • abdominal enlargement
  • bowel or bladder symptoms such as difficulty urinating
  • pain during sex
  • unexplained weight gain

Ovarian cysts are common in females with regular periods and in most cases their presence is harmless. Cysts are normal, with the size and location sometimes causing problems like ruptures. Otherwise, they are usually benign and create little discomfort.1

How are Fibroids and Cysts Different?

Fibroids are a muscle tumor, so they are firm whereas cysts are fluid-filled. The differences between their symptoms can be subtle, so it is important to consult a doctor for evaluation.2

The causes and treatment are also different, another reason that it’s important to seek medical advice to help with any type of pain or other concern with your pelvic health. 

How are Fibroids and Cysts Alike?

Fibroids and cysts are both common, particularly before menopause, and their other similarities lie mainly in their symptoms. They can both cause pelvic pain and a protruding abdominal area, for instance, and can both be detected during a pelvic exam.2 The symptoms of each can also be similar to other pelvic concerns like endometriosis

Fibroids and cysts can both impact your health. 

Fibroids can have a negative effect on fertility if their growth distorts the tissue lining the inner cavity of the uterus, or if they obstruct the path of eggs in the fallopian tubes.4

A ruptured cyst can release its contents into your body, creating a possibility of blood poisoning or other infections.1 Some women develop many small cysts on their ovaries, which can be a symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS, which can be a cause of infertility.1

If you’re concerned that you may have fibroids or cysts, or another pelvic health concern, seek medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Use our physician finder to find a doctor near you who can work with you on a path to pelvic health.

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