Uterine fibroids and endometriosis are both conditions that can affect a person’s uterus. However, endometriosis can also affect other body areas. Although they share similar symptoms, they are separate conditions.

Fibroids and endometriosis can cause a person to experience symptoms such as pelvic pain and fertility problems.

A person can have both fibroids and endometriosis at the same time. In fact, a 2021 review found that the conditions often occur together.

Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between fibroids and endometriosis, as well as their symptoms and treatments.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Fibroids are tumors that grow in or on a person’s uterus. They are typically noncancerous. Fibroids only affect a person’s uterus.

Endometriosis can affect many areas of the body, including the uterus. Endometriosis occurs when tissue that is similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. It most commonly affects the:

  • ovaries
  • fallopian tubes
  • outer surface of the uterus
  • tissues holding the uterus in place

However, it can also affect the:

Rarely, endometriosis can affect a person’s brain, lungs, diaphragm, and skin.

Fibroids and endometriosis are both common conditions. A review from 2021 notes that endometriosis affects around 10% of females of reproductive age. However, the actual number is likely to be much higher.

Fibroids affect around 70% of females between ages 35⁠–49 years old. This increases to 80% for Black females. Research from 2017 suggests this may be due to the following risk factors:

Endometriosis typically develops in adolescence or early adulthood. Fibroids are generally diagnosed in females ages 40 years and older.

Genetics may cause both endometriosis and fibroids. If a person has a family member with either condition, they are more likely to develop it. If a person’s mother has fibroids, they are three times more likely to develop them.

Additionally, both endometriosis and fibroids may grow in the presence of the hormone estrogen. The hormone progesterone may also encourage fibroid growth.

Fibroids and endometriosis have many unique symptoms. However, there are also many overlapping symptoms between the conditions. See below for some of these.

A healthcare professional can use various methods to diagnose a person with either fibroids or endometriosis. Some diagnostic techniques and tools are the same for both conditions, such as:

  • Medical history: This involves asking the person about their symptoms and family medical history.
  • Pelvic exam: A healthcare professional feels for growths or lumps in a person’s pelvic region.
  • Ultrasound: A healthcare professional places an ultrasound wand inside a person’s vagina, on their abdomen, or both.
  • MRI: This creates an image of the inside of a person’s body.
  • Laparoscopy: This involves a surgeon inserting a small camera into a person’s abdomen to view their internal organs.

Fibroids diagnosis

Additional tests a doctor may use to diagnose fibroids include:

  • X-ray: This uses radiation to create images of the inside of a person’s body.
  • CT scan: This takes and combines multiple X-rays of a person’s body from different angles.
  • Hysterosalpingogram: This involves a healthcare professional injecting a special dye into a person’s uterus and taking X-rays.
  • Sonohysterogram: A healthcare professional injects water into a person’s uterus and performs an ultrasound.
  • Hysteroscopy: A doctor inserts a thin scope with a light on it into a person’s cervix and uterus.

Endometriosis diagnosis

In addition to other diagnostic tests, a healthcare professional may prescribe a person hormonal birth control or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist.

GnRH agonists stop a person’s menstrual cycle and reduce their estrogen level. If these medications reduce a person’s symptoms, it is likely they have endometriosis.

However, the only way to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery. Sometimes surgeons can diagnose the condition by confirming the presence of endometriosis growths. At other times, they need to take a small sample (biopsy) of suspected endometriosis tissue to examine under a microscope.

Learn more about endometriosis diagnosis.

There is no cure for endometriosis or fibroids. However, treatments for both conditions aim to manage symptoms and reduce pain.

Find details about treatment options below.

Endometriosis treatment

There is no cure for endometriosis. However, there are treatment options that can help manage symptoms, such as:

Fibroid treatment

Not all people who have fibroids have symptoms. If a person does have symptoms, a doctor may suggest treatments such as:

  • pain medication
  • iron supplements
  • low dose birth control pills
  • progesterone-like contraceptive injections
  • IUD
  • GnRH agonists
  • myomectomy, which is a surgery to remove fibroids
  • hysterectomy, which is a surgery to remove the uterus
  • endometrial ablation, which is a surgery to remove the lining of the uterus
  • myolysis, in which a needle is inserted into the fibroids to destroy them with electricity or by freezing them
  • uterine artery embolization, which is a procedure used to cut the blood supply to fibroids

Learn more about fibroid surgery.

A person should talk with a healthcare professional if they have any symptoms of fibroids or endometriosis. A correct diagnosis can help a person to receive treatment to reduce their symptoms.

If a person has fibroids or endometriosis and is trying to become pregnant, they should talk with a doctor about conceiving and possible complications.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions and fibroids and endometriosis.

What is the difference between fibroid pain and endometriosis pain?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between fibroid pain and endometriosis pain. However, a person with fibroids may experience pelvic pressure and a bulging abdomen, alongside other symptoms.

Additionally, a person with both fibroids and endometriosis may experience more severe pelvic pain than a person with only fibroids.

Can endometriosis be mistaken for a fibroid?

Due to the large overlap in symptoms between endometriosis and fibroids, a healthcare professional may have difficulty reaching the correct diagnosis.

Surgery is the only way for a healthcare professional to confirm that a person has endometriosis.

Fibroids and endometriosis have similar symptoms. This can make it difficult for a healthcare professional to diagnose these conditions.

However, they are two separate conditions with different treatment options. If a person has symptoms of either endometriosis or fibroids, they should contact a doctor.