PCOS and Fibroids: What You Need To Know

PCOS and Fibroids: What You Need To Know

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone-related condition that causes cysts to grow on the inside or outside of the ovaries. Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors in or on the uterus. You can have both fibroids and PCOS at the same time, but they are not the same condition. While they have some overlapping symptoms and risk factors, they affect different organs and may require different treatments. Here’s what you need to know.*

What causes PCOS and fibroids? 

PCOS affects about 10% of women in the United States. It’s unclear what causes PCOS, but certain factors can increase your risk, including:

  • High levels of male sex hormones (known as androgens), 
  • Low-grade inflammation, 
  • Having too much insulin in your blood, 
  • Obesity, and 
  • A family history of PCOS.

Fibroids are slightly more common, affecting 70-80% of women by the time they are in their 50s. The exact cause of fibroids is also not known, but estrogen imbalance, age, obesity, and genetics may be contributors. 

How are they different?

The main difference between PCOS and fibroids is where they are located. Fibroid tumors develop in the uterus, and PCOS cysts affect the ovaries. Symptoms can be similar, but treatment can change depending on which condition you have. You will likely need to meet with a specialist to get an appropriate diagnosis.

What are the symptoms?

Neither PCOS cysts nor fibroid tumors are cancerous, but both can cause painful and unwanted side effects. 

Some common PCOS symptoms include:

  • periods that are irregular, unusually heavy, or stop altogether
  • difficulty getting pregnant
  • oily skin and/or acne
  • sudden weight gain
  • pelvic pain
  • excess hair on the face and body

Fibroids can lead to similar symptoms, including:

  • pelvic pain
  • heavier than normal periods
  • severe cramps during menstruation
  • painful sex
  • constantly feeling the need to pee

Both PCOS and fibroids can also interfere with conception, pregnancy, and childbirth.

What are the treatment options?

Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor can go over some appropriate treatment options with you. To treat fibroid symptoms, your options may include:

  • Medication, 
  • Hormone therapy, 
  • Minimally invasive procedures such as uterine fibroid embolization or radiofrequency ablation, or 
  • Surgery, such as myomectomy or hysterectomy.

PCOS is typically treated with:

  • Hormone therapy,
  • Lifestyle habits, such as changes to your diet and increased exercise, and/or
  • Medications to treat underlying health conditions such as diabetes.

Both PCOS and fibroids can be asymptomatic, but both conditions can also result in serious health complications if they are symptomatic and are left untreated. See your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis, and discuss which options are right for you and your lifestyle.

*What to know about PCOS and fibroids. (2022, June 2). USA Fibroid Centers. Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://www.usafibroidcenters.com/blog/key-differences-between-pcos-and-uterine-fibroids/

A medical illustration depicting PCOS.” by BruceBlaus is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0