Common Pelvic Conditions Every Woman Needs To Know About

Common Pelvic Conditions Explained

Female reproductive system
Bruce Blaus/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

Women face the possibility of a number of pelvic conditions. Some are fine if left untreated while ignoring others could be fatal. Let's take a look at the symptoms of these pelvic conditions so that you might recognize them if they happen to you or someone you love.

Asherman's Syndrome

Asherman's syndrome is the formation of intrauterine adhesions (IUAs) or scar tissue that often causes the front and back walls of the uterus to stick together.

These scars are usually the result of trauma to the uterus from a recent pregnancy or other causes, including surgery for uterine fibroid tumors or polyps, as well as Cesarean section.

Symptoms include a very light period or no period, but some women still experience pain during the time menstruation would normally occur. Sadly, miscarriages and infertility are frequent.

The most common treatment is hysteroscopy, sometimes assisted by laparoscopy. Unfortunately, if the adhesions are severe, they often reform, requiring additional surgery or treatment. Read more on Asherman's syndrome.

Benign Uterine Fibroid Tumors

Uterine fibroid tumors are almost never cancerous and frequently occur without causing any pain.

Fibroids usually manifest as a number of small tumors, but can occur as a single large tumor. This can cause women with large fibroid tumors to appear pregnant.

Treatment options include:

  • no treatment because the tumors frequently shrink on their own once menopause occurs
  • myomectomy - the surgical removal of fibroids
  • endometrial ablation - the surgical destruction of your endometrium
  • hysterectomy - the removal of your uterus and possibly other organs in your reproductive system

For more information, read 10 Things to Know About Uterine Fibroid Tumors.

Dysmenorrhea

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for severe menstrual cramps that keep you from performing your normal daily activities.

Symptoms include:

  • pain in the lower abdomen, lower back and the inner thighs
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headaches and dizziness

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) frequently help reduce the pain and work best when taken at the first sign of pain. Other treatments that can help include hormonal treatments such as birth control pills and vaginal rings.

See Dysmenorrhea - What You Should Know About Menstrual Cramps for more information.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows in other places in the body. While the pelvic area, including your fallopian tubes and ovaries, is the most common site for endometriosis, the tissue can spread to other parts of the body, including the lungs.

Hormones cause changes to endometriosis whenever menstruation occurs. The breakdown of these tissues frequently leads to pelvic adhesions or scar tissue, which may cause severe pain and bind organs together.

The main symptom of endometriosis is pain that may occur during sex, bowel movements, urination and menstruation. Treatment of endometriosis depends on the severity of the disease and whether you want to have children, and includes medications and surgical procedures. Learn more about endometriosis.

Mittelschmerz

Mittelschmerz is a German word meaning "midcycle pain." Most often, the pain of ovulation lasts for six to eight hours, but may last for 24 to 48 hours. Fortunately, self-help treatments can ease discomfort. Read more about mittelschmerz.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is often called a "silent killer" because there are few or no symptoms until the disease has reached a late stage. There are three main types of ovarian cancer:

  1. epithelial, which is the most common (85% to 90% of cases) and covers the outer surface of the ovaries
  2. germ cell tumors, which form on the cells in the ovary that develop into eggs
  3. sex cord-stromal tumors, which occur in the connective tissues inside the ovaries

Warning signs of ovarian cancer may include unexplained:

For more information, read Ovarian Cancer - The Silent Killer.

Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid- or tissue-filled sacs that form on your ovaries and most go away on their own. Symptoms include dull or sharp pain in the abdomen during certain activities. Small cysts might not produce any symptoms, but larger cysts may twist, causing pain. Some ovarian cysts can rupture or bleed, requiring immediate medical attention. For more information, read about ovarian cysts.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs that can lead to infertility if untreated. More than 1 million women each year receive a diagnosis of PID.

Symptoms of PID include:

Frequently treated with antibiotics, you can learn more about pelvic inflammatory disease.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) frequently leads to infertility and the cause appears to be a number of factors that work together, including insulin resistance, increased androgens and irregular or absent menstruation.

Symptoms of PCOS include:

  • obesity
  • hirsutism (increased hair growth on face, chest, abdomen and upper thighs)
  • heavy, irregular or absent menstruation
  • patches of thickened, dark, velvety skin
  • multiple small cysts on your ovaries

Treatment options for PCOS depend largely on whether you want to have children. For more information, read What Is PCOS?

Uterine or Endometrial Cancer

Uterine or endometrial cancer is the most common type of gynecological cancer. It only affects two or three out of every 100 women, is rarely seen in women under 40, and most common in women 60 and older.

Risk factors include:

  • obesity
  • starting menstruation before age 12
  • family history
  • long-term use of estrogen without progesterone or high-dose oral contraceptives

Symptoms can be constant or can come and go, and include

Any time you experience vaginal bleeding after menopause, you should see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

See What Is Uterine Cancer?

Sources:

Frequently Asked Questions: Dilation and Curettage (D&C), FAQ 062 Special Procedures. ACOG. http://www.acog.org/publications/faq/faq062.cfm. Accessed 11/29/11.

Frequently Asked Questions: Dysmenorrhea, FAQ 046 Gynecological Problems. ACOG. http://www.acog.org/publications/faq/faq046.cfm. Accessed 11/29/11.

Frequently Asked Questions: Cancer Of The Uterus, FAQ 097 Gynecological Problems. ACOG. http://www.acog.org/publications/faq/faq097.cfm. Accessed 11/29/11.

Frequently Asked Questions: Endometriosis, FAQ 013 Gynecological Problems. ACOG. http://www.acog.org/publications/faq/faq013.cfm. Accessed 11/29/11.

Ovarian Cancer Fact Sheet. ACOG. http://mail.ny.acog.org/website/OvarianCaFactSheet.pdf. Accessed 11/29/11.

Frequently Asked Questions: Ovarian Cysts, FAQ 075 Gynecological Problems. ACOG. http://www.acog.org/publications/faq/faq075.cfm. Accessed 11/29/11.

Frequently Asked Questions: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, FAQ 077 Gynecological Problems. ACOG. http://www.acog.org/publications/faq/faq077.cfm. Accessed 11/29/11.

Frequently Asked Questions: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, FAQ 121 Gynecological Problems. ACOG. http://www.acog.org/publications/faq/faq121.cfm. Accessed 11/29/11.

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