Pelvic Organ Prolapse: What Women Should Know
A group of muscles that are found across the pelvic opening are known as the "pelvic floor." These muscles are designed to help keep all of the organs found inside the pelvis in place. In some cases, these muscles can undergo problems, resulting in the "floor" collapsing. Here is what you need to know about the risks and results of a pelvic organ prolapse or collapse.
What Pelvic Organ Prolapse Means
The term prolapse means that the organs have begun to droop or fall down inside of the body. In the case of a pelvic prolapse, the bladder, uterus, small bowel area, and vagina can lose support as a result, causing serious pain and other problems. When a patient is coping with a pelvic organ prolapse, it can affect one, some, or all of these organs depending on the severity of the collapse.
The most common risk factor for pelvic organ prolapse is childbirth. When a woman gives birth, increased pressure is put on the abdominal area, which can strain the pelvic muscles and cause them to weaken or stretch. Obesity is another common cause, since the excess weight will push downward on the pelvis area. As a woman gets older, she is also at risk since these muscles can become weakened over time. Those who are coping with a chronic cough as a result of respiratory illness are also at risk, since coughing frequently can strain the pelvic muscles. Women who have undergone a hysterectomy are also at a higher risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
Not all patients will notice problems relating to pelvic organ prolapse, but here are the common symptoms that women should be aware of:
- Heavy feelings of pressure in and throughout the pelvic region.
- Sharp pain in the lower back
- Increased urges to urinate, or lack of bladder control
- Spotty bleeding during times other than menstruation
- Frequent constipation
These symptoms will depend on which organ is falling. If it's the bladder, urine leakage can occur. Small intestine prolapse is usually accompanied by lower back pain. Each symptom can indicate a different organ drooping, and a physician should be consulted immediately.
The method of treatment of pelvic organ prolapse will depend on the severity of the issue per your doctor's diagnosis. In some cases, simple Kegel exercises can be done to help strengthen the pelvic muscles. A small plastic device called a pessary may be inserted to help provide extra support for the organs in more extreme cases. For those with severe organ drooping, surgery may be needed to repair the affected muscle tissue or even to remove organs like the uterus that may have become damaged. Consult a doctor, like Women's Health Associate - Gilbert A Shamas MD, if you're feeling any of the aforementioned symptoms so they can determine the best course of treatment for you.