Hiding In Plain Sight
Considering that up to 15 percent of referrals to gynecologists and pain clinics are due to chronic pelvic pain—often related to pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS)—it’s surprising how little this condition is talked about. Characterized by a worsening of symptoms throughout the day, and most often occurring in pregnant women (though all women are susceptible), those experiencing PCS will often bottle up their discomfort. And unfortunately, some doctors aren’t familiar with the condition and may not consider it in diagnosis.
The good news, though, is that PCS can be effectively managed and treated. As with anything, though, the more the patient knows about her condition, the better off she’ll be. This being the case, here’s a quick overview of this condition.
Symptoms to Look Out For
The most telling symptom of PCS is persistent pelvic pain. In most cases, it gets worse throughout the day but tends to ease overnight, especially among those that sit or stand for long periods of time for work. As noted above, a majority of cases occur among pregnant women, but all women of child-bearing age are at risk.
Pain may increase during menstruation or sexual intercourse, typically localizing in the lower abdomen and back. Irritable bladder syndrome often accompanies the condition, and it can be accompanied with varicose veins on the buttocks and the groin. Oftentimes, pain is felt on one side, but it can occur in both.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms, make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can.
What’s Causing PCS?
At its core, this condition is the result of blood circulation problems around the ovaries. Basically, varicose veins—like those that some experience in the legs—form in this area when vein walls become unable to get blood back to the heart. This causes it to pool, leading to swelling, obstruction, and pain in the area.
The roots of this problem oftentimes are hormonal changes in the body, which is why pregnancy can so often be linked to PCS. Increased estrogen, for instance, can cause veins to dilate and will alter their shape, leading to circulation disorders. Environmental factors and behaviors—such as standing or sitting for long periods like you might need to at work—can make existing problems worse.
So how is this condition treated? There are a couple options:
- Hormonal Treatments: One approach to treatment involves changing the hormonal chemistry of the area. Gynecologists can prescribe hormone medications to alter this, which, in some cases, will take care of symptoms.
- Vein Treatments: Especially if hormone-oriented therapies don’t yield results, vein specialists may be called in to take on the issue more directly. Usually, they’ll opt for a procedure called embolization, which entails a minimally invasive treatment to essentially seal off problematic veins. This is done by making a small incision near the area, which allows a catheter to gain access to the site. After the problem area is isolated using imaging and a contrast medium (a kind of dye), the diseased vein or veins are injected with solutions that aim to close them up. This forces blood to choose alternate paths, reducing swelling, pooling, and pain problems.
If properly diagnosed, treatment is well-tolerated and highly successful. While patients of embolization do require a couple hours of monitored recovery, they’re able to return to normal activities the same day.
The Right to be Pain Free
Ultimately, no one should have to live with pain and suffering. When you’re dealing with discomfort, you simply cannot be your best self. In this sense, seeking out treatment is about more than individual relief; it lets women get back to being engaged workers, family-members, friends, and parts of the community. If you’re feeling pelvic pain, there’s no reason to suffer in silence. Effective treatment is out there; it’s just a matter of finding the right team to work with.
If you’re experiencing pelvic pain or think you may have PCS, the team at Hamilton Vein can help. The experts at these Texas-based outpatient clinics pride themselves in offering nothing but the best in minimally-invasive treatments for a variety of vein and circulation problems. Learn more about what they do by calling their Houston location at (281) 916-5660, the Austin clinic at (512) 710-1114, or San Antonio at (201) 405-4707 today!
- “Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS)”. 2018. Org. https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/womens-health/pelvic-congestion.html.
- Pelvic Congestion Syndrome | Cedars-Sinai. (2018). Cedars-sinai.org. Retrieved 4 June 2018, from https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/p/pelvic-congestion-syndrome.html