Women who struggle with chronic pelvic pain seldom seek the help of a vein specialist. Yet a vein condition called pelvic congestion syndrome accounts for a third of all cases of chronic pelvic pain.
If you struggle with ongoing pelvic pain and your gynecologist has ruled out problems with your reproductive system, it's time to talk with Kishore Arcot, MD, at the Memphis Vein Center.
As a specialist in vascular medicine, Dr. Arcot can answer your questions, determine if you have pelvic congestion syndrome, and treat the problem with safe and effective minimally invasive procedures.
Keep reading to learn more about the causes and telltale signs of pelvic congestion syndrome.
Pelvic congestion syndrome explained
If you're familiar with varicose veins — the bulging, twisted, bluish-purple veins that appear in your legs — you can easily envision the cause of pelvic congestion syndrome.
Pelvic congestion syndrome occurs when the veins that carry blood away from your ovaries and uterus become engorged with blood. As a result, they become enlarged and twisted, just like varicose veins in your legs.
The problem develops when valves inside the veins fail. Valves normally keep blood flowing in one direction. When they weaken and stop working, blood goes backward. This refluxing blood accumulates and causes varicose veins around your ovaries.
Symptoms of pelvic congestion syndrome
Women with pelvic congestion syndrome may experience any of the following symptoms:
Chronic pelvic pain
Chronic pelvic pain (and pain in general) is the hallmark symptom of pelvic congestion syndrome. Many women describe their pain as achy with occasional bouts of sharp pain.
In addition to chronic lower abdominal pain, you may have pain:
- That occurs during or after sexual intercourse
- That's worse after standing for a long time
- That's worse during your menstrual periods
- That feels better when lying down
- In your lower back
Any activity that adds pressure to your abdomen, from prolonged standing and sitting to lifting, can increase the pain.
Though your pain may feel worse during menstruation, it doesn't come and go with your menstrual cycles. Pain caused by pelvic congestion syndrome is more of a constant ache, or it may come and go but not in sync with your periods.
Pain during pregnancy
In many cases, pelvic congestion syndrome begins during pregnancy, most often in the third trimester and in the months after having your baby.
Your veins naturally enlarge during pregnancy because your blood volume increases. This can pull on the valves, weakening them and causing pelvic congestion syndrome.
Visible varicose veins
Women who have pelvic congestion syndrome often have varicose veins in the vagina, vulva, upper thighs, and buttocks. They're also more likely to have varicose veins in their legs.
Bowel and bladder symptoms
You may develop an irritable bladder and/or bowel. Symptoms of an irritable bowel include diarrhea, constipation, and cramping abdominal pain.
Bladder symptoms include frequently urinating, suddenly needing to urinate, and stress incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs when coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, or other strain causes uncontrollable urine leakage.
Abnormal uterine bleeding
Abnormal uterine bleeding includes heavy menstrual periods and bleeding that occurs outside normal menstrual cycles, such as bleeding between periods or cycles that are shorter or longer than normal.
Though abnormal uterine bleeding can occur with pelvic congestion syndrome, it's also one of the top symptoms of gynecologic problems such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and uterine fibroids. For this reason, you should always see your gynecologist if you have abnormal bleeding.
If you have questions about your symptoms or would like to schedule an appointment, contact our Memphis, Tennessee, center today.