Chronic pelvic pain is a very common problem in the United States. It accounts for 10 to 15 percent of referrals to gynecologists and pain clinics. Approximately one third of all women will suffer from chronic pelvic pain at some point during their lifetime. And studies show for up to 30% of those women, a condition known as pelvic congestion syndrome, or PCS, may be to blame. It may go undiagnosed simply because physicians are often unfamiliar with it or fail to look for it.
What is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?
Pelvic congestion syndrome isn’t widely known. This condition is caused by problems with the veins in the pelvic area. (This is the lower part of your belly or abdomen). In some women, blood can build up inside of these veins and they become enlarged and change shape, like varicose veins. This can lead to pain and other symptoms. Hormones may also play a role as estrogen makes veins wider.
Who is at risk for pelvic congestion syndrome?
There are a few risk factors that can make pelvic congestion syndrome more likely. The most significant is past pregnancies, particularly if you have had more than one child. Additional risk factors include:
- Family history of the disorder
- Age (women in their childbearing years are at higher risk)
- A retroverted or tipped uterus
- Hormonal dysfunction
- Polycystic ovaries
What are common symptoms?
Many times, symptoms don’t appear until a woman becomes pregnant, and then they continue after the pregnancy. The main symptom of PCS is pelvic pain and it typically worsens as the day goes on, especially for women who sit or stand all day, and then goes away after a night of sleep.
- Pelvic pain that lasts at least 6 months.
- Pain can start during or after a pregnancy. It may worsen after a later pregnancy.
- Heavy or aching feeling, or sharp
- Pain usually only on the left side. At times you may feel it on both sides.
- Pain is often worse at the end of the day.
- Feeling a sudden need to urinate
- Enlarged and distorted veins on the buttocks, external genitals (vulva), or thighs
In the past, women with pelvic congestion syndrome were often left frustrated with little relief. There are now a few different treatment options, but one of the most advanced is gonadal vein embolization. Gonadal vein embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that offers maximum relief. During this procedure, an interventional radiologist closes off faulty veins so they can no longer enlarge with blood and cause pain. Since the procedure does not require an incision, and is essentially performed from the inside out, patients experience minimal recovery time.
If pelvic pain is affecting the way you act and live and think you may have pelvic congestion syndrome – now is the time to get relief. Visit our website and talk to your OB-GYN.