Approximately three percent of women today have a pelvic floor disorder known as pelvic organ prolapse. This condition arises when the muscles and tissues responsible for holding the pelvic organs in place weaken or become loose. One or more of these organs may then drop into the woman’s reproductive organs or press into them. Sadly, many women allow this condition to go untreated, as they don’t feel comfortable talking with their doctor about it. However, treatment remains available, so every woman should seek help as soon as possible.
Understanding Pelvic Organ Prolapse With pelvic organ prolapse, a number of organs may be involved. This includes the bladder, small bowel, female reproductive organs, or rectum. When the prolapse descends into the woman’s womb, doctors refer to this as cystocele. If the urethra slips or falls, the female receives a diagnosis of urethrocele, and medical professionals may provide a diagnosis of uterine prolapse for some ladies. When the vagina prolapses, the woman suffers from vaginal vault prolapse, while a small bowel prolapse goes by the name enterocele. Finally, when the rectum droops or descends, doctors refer to this as rectocele. Women should ask their medical professionals which disorder they are dealing with.
Causes of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Some women have no symptoms of pelvic prolapse. However, many ladies feel pressure or fullness in their pelvis or suffer from a backache that affects the lower portion of the back. Intercourse becomes painful for some females, and women feel as if something is coming out of their vagina.
Any time a woman suffers from urinary incontinence, she needs to see her doctor. The same holds when she constantly needs to urinate or loses control of her bowels. Constipation serves as another sign something is wrong within the body and medical attention is needed. Finally, any bleeding or spotting from the vagina calls for a visit to the doctor.
The symptoms vary based on the organ affected. For instance, when the bladder droops or slips, a woman may begin leaking urine. When the rectum droops or falls, constipation and painful intercourse become issues. Nevertheless, intercourse may be painful when the lady’s small intestine prolapses, and this pain is often accompanied by a backache. However, the same symptoms are seen with uterine prolapse. Women report their symptoms intensify as the day progresses.
Diagnosing Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Any woman who suspects she is suffering from pelvic organ prolapse should see her doctor right away. The doctor takes a complete medical history before examining the pelvic organs. This provides them with an idea of how strong the muscles of the pelvic floor are. In some cases, the medical history and exam provide the doctor with everything needed to make this diagnosis.
Some women learn they have this condition during a routine checkup at the gynecologist. If the doctor suspects this is what a woman is dealing with, they may request additional testing. This testing helps the doctor determine which organs are affected, the severity of the prolapse, and whether other conditions play a role in this condition. What tests might be ordered?
Doctors often request bladder function tests to learn how this organ and its surrounding structures are functioning. They might also request an x-ray of the urinary tract, known as an intravenous pyelography. The x-ray allows the doctor to see not only the bladder but also the kidneys and ureters to see if they are working properly. Another test that looks at the bladder and urethra is a voiding cystourethrogram. The doctor orders a test of the bladder when full and again when empty to see any issues present in these organs.
If the doctor suspects another condition may be contributing to the prolapse, they request a pelvic CT scan. When medical professionals believe more than one organ has prolapsed, they turn to an ultrasound to confirm this. Another option involves an MRI scan of the pelvic area, as this provides the doctor with a 3D image of the organs and the muscles that support them.
Treating Pelvic Organ Prolapse
A urologist may recommend several treatments for pelvic organ prolapse. Behavioral treatments range from physical therapy to Kegel exercises. The goal of physical therapy is to strengthen the core muscles while the Kegel exercises focus on making the pelvic floor muscles stronger. If the exercises aren’t enough to address the problem, the doctor might turn to mechanical treatments. For instance, they may insert a pessary into the vagina. This pessary is nothing more than a small plastic device that helps support the prolapsing organs. As a final option, the doctor may go in and surgically repair the affected organ or tissue. They might choose to remove the organ in certain situations.
Preventing Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Is it possible to prevent pelvic prolapse? Women often ask their doctor this question, especially when a friend or family member has received this diagnosis. Unfortunately, certain risk factors remain out of a female’s control. Any lady with a family history of pelvic organ prolapse is more likely to develop this condition, and the risk of this condition increases as a woman ages. Furthermore, a hysterectomy or difficult vaginal delivery puts a woman more at risk of prolapse.
Women can take steps to reduce the risk, however. Daily Kegel exercises increase muscle strength in this part of the body. People should never use the abs or back to lift heavy things, but rather the legs. Overweight women need to work with their doctors to bring their weight down and reduce the risk of prolapse, and women should seek help if they experience constipation regularly. Finally, smoking not only damages tissues in the body, but the chronic cough it brings on amplifies the risk of pelvic organ prolapse, so women who smoke need to break the habit right away.
If you suspect you are suffering from pelvic organ prolapse, see your doctor. There is no need to be embarrassed because they deal with this condition regularly. The doctor will help determine the best treatment for your needs, so the prolapse can soon be a thing of the past.
About Atlantic Urology Clinics:
Atlantic Urology Clinics brings together cutting-edge urologic care and state-of-the-art technology. Men and women find they are treated by doctors who were educated and trained at the top medical schools and teaching hospitals. As a result, they combine exceptional skill and proficiency in advanced surgical techniques.