About 35% of women will endure chronic pelvic pain in their lifetimes. This can be caused by many things, one being Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, or PCS. This disease is caused varicose veins similar to ones you may find on your legs.
Varicose veins in any part of the body are caused by backwards flow of blood in the veins leading to increased pressure which makes them weak, enlarged, and twisted over time. In the case of PCS, these occur in and around the pelvis and can affect the uterus, ovaries, and vulva.
Pelvic Congestion Syndrome often goes undiagnosed, but thankfully there are some key risk factors and warning signs to look out for. Pelvic Congestion Syndrome can cause chronic pelvis pain, especially during activities like intercourse, urination, and menstruation. Other symptoms include irregular vaginal discharge, an irritable bladder, and sometimes abnormal bleeding during menstruation.
Chronic pain can be stressful and have a negative effect on not only those who experience it, but their friends and families as well. Certain types of exercise can trigger pain and worsen symptoms, painful intercourse can negatively affect relationships with significant others, and severe fatigue can affect relationships and social lives. Even simple tasks like bending over, sitting on the floor, getting in and out of cars, and sitting for a long time can cause a lot of pain.
Because hormones like estrogen and progesterone break down the lining of vein walls, women are more susceptible to PCS than men. During pregnancy, women are especially at risk due to the large amount of these hormones being excreted. Women who develop PCS are typically between the ages of 20 and 50 and have had two or more pregnancies. Other risk factors include polycystic ovaries and hormonal dysfunction.
Because lying down lessens the pressure of the veins, they are often missed during pelvic exams. This can lead to PCS remaining undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years on end. One way to detect them is with a transvaginal ultrasound performed while the woman is standing up, but the most effective methods are through MRI and pelvic venography. Other measures like a Pap test, routine laboratory blood work, and a cross-sectional imaging study should also be taken to rule out cervical cancer, and other types of pelvic tumors.
Ovarian Vein Embolization is the standard treatment for Pelvic Congestion Syndrome. During the procedure, the veins are sealed shut so the symptoms subside.
If the symptoms described in this article strike you as familiar, it may be helpful to contact a Board Certified Venous & Lymphatic physician like Dr. Rivard of Illinois Vein Specialists. You can also ask your gynecologist for a referral.