PELVIC FLOOR DYSFUNCTION
Pelvic floor disorders occur when the "sling" or "hammock" that supports the pelvic organs becomes weak or damaged. The three main types of pelvic floor disorders are:
- Urinary incontinence, or lack of bladder control
- Fecal incontinence, or lack of bowel control
- Pelvic organ prolapse, a condition in which the uterus, bladder and bowel may "drop" into the vagina and cause a bulge through the vaginal canal
Urinary Incontinence or loss of bladder control, affects millions of men and women. It is more common in women. The main symptom is the urge to urinate or urinating when not expected.
There are two types of urinary incontinence - stress incontinence and urge incontinence/overactive bladder. Learn more about urinary incontinence here.
The most common cause of bowel incontinence is damage to the muscles around the anus (anal sphincters). Vaginal childbirth can damage the anal sphincters or their nerves. That's why women are affected by accidental bowel leakage about twice as often as men.
Anal surgery can also damage the anal sphincters or nerves, leading to fecal incontinence. Fecal incontinence is a symptom of a variety of conditions, so it's important to discuss it with your physician to determine the appropriate treatment process.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
The vagina is made of an intricate infrastructure of muscles, ligaments and membranes and acts as the primary support for the pelvic organs, tissues, and subsequent structures. This support network includes the skin and muscles of the vaginal walls. Sometimes, various parts of the vagina’s infrastructure can seemingly weaken, dysfunction or break causing pelvic organ prolapse. Some women claim pelvic organ prolapse sensations can feel as though something is going to fall out of either the vagina or rectum.
Pelvic organ prolapse impacts the uterus, rectum, bladder, urethra, small bowel, or the vagina itself. The term prolapse, can be defined as a shift of fall of these structures out of position. Medical treatment and/or surgery is usually required to fix pelvic organ prolapse, which can affect sexual health, bodily functions and also cause discomfort in the area around the pelvis.
The following are types of pelvic organ prolapse:
- Rectocele (prolapse of the rectum)
- Cystocele (prolapse of the bladder, bladder drop)
- Enterocele (herniated small bowel)
- Prolapsed uterus (womb)
- Vaginal Vault Prolapse
- This type of prolapse may occur following a hysterectomy, which involves the removal of the uterus.
Approximately 30%-40% of women develop some presentation of pelvic organ prolapse in their lifetime, usually following menopause, childbirth, or a hysterectomy. Most women who develop this condition are older than 40 years.
Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
The following are general symptoms of all types of pelvic organ prolapse:
- Pressure in the vagina or pelvis
- Painful intercourse
- A lump at the opening of the vagina
- A decrease in pain or pressure when the woman lies down
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
Common factors that may cause a vaginal prolapse include the following:
- Childbirth (especially multiple births)
Some women who develop a pelvic organ prolapse do not experience symptoms.
When to Seek Medical Care
Any woman who experiences symptoms that may indicate dysfunction should contact her doctor. If not treated correctly, symptoms can worsen over time.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is very common. Please do not let what may feel like intimate or embarrassing symptoms keep you from seeking help. There are many treatments available that we provide, which can help relieve your symptoms.
Call us at (601) 936-9190 to speak with your physician if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above. Annual exams are also important because they can sometimes uncover pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms you may not realize are impacting your health.