Pelvic Pain Syndrome
Pelvic pain syndrome is a chronic condition that involves persistent pain in the lower-abdominal and pelvic regions. Pelvic pain syndrome may be diagnosed when pelvic pain is chronic, and has been present for more than 6 months. It can affect women both physically and emotionally, leading to sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression and sexual dysfunction. Pelvic pain can be a symptom of an underlying condition, or its cause may remain unknown. Living with pelvic pain syndrome is often difficult, and many women spend years trying to determine its cause.
Causes of Pelvic Pain Syndrome
In many cases, the exact cause of pelvic pain syndrome is unknown. In others, symptoms are linked to other health issues that contribute to pain in the pelvic region. Possible causes of pelvic pain syndrome include the following:
- Hormonal changes
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Scarring after abdominal surgery
- Interstitial cystitis
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Uterine fibroids
Pelvic pain syndrome can also occur in women with a history of vulvodynia (chronic vaginal pain and infection).
Symptoms of Pelvic Pain Syndrome
Patients with pelvic pain syndrome often experience the following:
- Constant or intermittent pelvic pain
- Severe cramping
- Muscle tenderness
- Pressure within the pelvic region
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful menstrual periods
- Pain during bowel movements or urination
- Pain when sitting for long periods of time
Pain in the pelvic muscles can lead to various problems and complications that primarily affect the bladder and the bowels. In some cases, pain spreads to the back and legs.
Diagnosis of Pelvic Pain Syndrome
Pelvic pain syndrome is diagnosed through a physical examination, and a review of symptoms and the patient's medical history. During the exam, the pelvis is checked for signs of infection or abnormal growths. Additional diagnostic tests may include the following:
- CT scan
Tissue samples of the cervix or vagina may be taken to test for any signs of infection or sexually transmitted disease.
Treatment of Pelvic Pain Syndrome
Treatment of pelvic pain syndrome varies depending on its underlying cause. If an infection is the cause, antibiotics may be prescribed. If an underlying cause cannot be identified, treatment focuses on managing painful symptoms. Treatment can include the following:
- Pain medication
For some people, physical therapy that helps to develop healthier and stronger muscles can relieve symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to treat underlying causes, such as endometriosis, or to remove scar tissue.