Chronic Pelvic Pain and Uterine Fibroids
When Pain Can't Be Ignored Any Longer
Women tend to have a high tolerance for pain and often fail to have it checked out until such time as they are doubled over with it. That goes especially for pelvic pain. Yet, pelvic pain can generally be treated very effectively once the cause is known. When there is no known cause for the pain, a medical professional can help find ways to cope with the pain and get life moving forward again.
Chronic pain is pain that has lasted for six months or more and type and intensity varies from woman to woman. For some women it is a mild ache or twinge that is intermittent - it comes and goes. In others, the pain is so severe it is debilitating, robbing a woman of sleep and making her ineffective in day-to-day life.
There are a variety of reasons for chronic pelvic pain in women that include:
· Reproductive system pain resulting from endometriosis, adenomyosis, and uterine fibroids
· Scar tissue and adhesions from previous surgeries or after a pelvic infection
· IBS, chronic bladder irritation and diseases of the bowel or urinary tract
· Physical or sexual abuse
Even with in depth testing, a cause for pelvic pain may not be found. That doesn't mean there is no pain nor does it mean that it's a figment of the imagination. Sometimes pain ensues after a disease has been treated or a surgery has healed and nerves have been affected. This pain is neuropathic pain; pain generated by the nervous system and it is very real.
Determining the Cause of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain requires examination in order to determine a diagnosis and subsequent treatment. A Pap test, blood and urine tests, a pregnancy test and testing for a variety of STDs are common diagnostic tools used by gynecologists to determine the cause of chronic pain.
One possible cause for chronic pelvic pain is uterine fibroids, technically called leiomyomata. They are non-cancerous growths that develop from normal uterine muscle cells that start to grow abnormally, bunching up to form benign tumors. They are very common, although most women don't even know they have them because in many cases the tumors are too small to cause problems.
Fibroids are another example of mysterious growths. Experts do not know what causes them; however, it seems they are dependent upon estrogen for growth. Uterine fibroids don't begin to develop until after puberty, more frequently after the age of 30. When estrogen levels fall with menopause, uterine fibroids often disappear entirely. These tumors tend to be more frequent in Africa-American women who often have two to three times as many incidents of them and also tend to have more symptoms from uterine fibroids than white women do.
Some factors that may influence the growth of uterine fibroids are:
· Pregnancy - women who have had children tend not to have fibroid tumors
· Early onset of menses - women who begin menstruation early tend to have fibroids
· Birth Control pills - women who take birth control pills are less likely to have fibroids
· Family history - women with first degree relatives (mother and sisters) who have fibroids will likely have them as well
Uterine fibroid tumors are often classified by where they grow in the uterus; myometrial, in the muscular wall of the uterus; submucosal, under the interior surface of the uterus; subserosal, on the outside wall of the uterus; and pedunculated fibroids that grow inside the uterus on a stalk or base. They can range in size from microscopic to several inches across, weighing many pounds.
Although uterine fibroids may not cause any grief for some women, others experience serious symptoms that include:
· Periods that last for more than seven days with heavy bleeding during that time
· Bloating in the belly and lower abdomen
· Pain in the lower belly and abdomen
· Infertility and possible problems with pregnancy
Diagnosing Uterine Fibroids
The doctor has a variety of methods to diagnose fibroid tumors from manual pelvic examination (which often exposes large tumors), to ultrasound, MRI, hysterosalpingograms and biopsies. The methods of treatment include non-surgical treatments such as watchful waiting to see if the fibroids grow or change; various types of contraception including oral and IUD; pain relievers; and hormone treatments. Surgical treatments range from laparoscopic surgery to hysterectomy.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain, regardless whether it is a mild achiness or something more severe, it is important to visit your gynecologist to determine the cause. Sometimes it is nothing serious, and other times it can be more than you thought.
To learn more about chronic pelvic pain, see the article in this section.