Chronic pelvic pain is a relatively common problem for women, affecting as many as one-third of all women throughout their lifetimes, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Despite its prevalence, the cause of pelvic pain is not always easy to diagnose. Most women (and many doctors) do not realize that pain in the pelvic area may be due to a condition known as pelvic congestion syndrome. Fortunately, when a diagnosis is made, there are treatment options to relieve the discomfort or even eliminate the pain entirely.
Explaining Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
Pelvic congestion syndrome occurs when the veins of the pelvis become varicose, similar to the formation of varicose veins in the legs. The reason behind the varicosity is also the same in most cases. Valves inside the veins that keep blood flowing in a single direction can become damaged over time, allowing blood to reflux back into the vessel. When this occurs, the vein can become weak and enlarge, leading to varicosity.
Pelvic Pain – Common Symptoms
Women that have pelvic congestion syndrome often experience pain in the pelvic region and the lower back. The pain usually is described as a dull ache, but it can also be a sharp, throbbing sensation for some women. The pain often worsens after long periods of standing and may be relieved by lying down. Some women also experience pain during or immediately following intercourse, or around the time of menstruation.
Possible Risk Factors
Pelvic congestion syndrome can occur in any woman, but there are certain factors that might put you at higher risk for the condition. Those factors might include:
- Two or more pregnancies
- Appearance of varicose veins in other areas, including the buttocks and legs
- A history of polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Hormonal irregularities
If you experience chronic pelvic pain that lasts six months or longer and have one or more of these risk factors, you may want to see a vein specialist to determine whether pelvic congestion syndrome is the cause of your discomfort.
Pelvic Pain – Making the Diagnosis
Diagnosing pelvic congestion syndrome can be challenging, particularly for physicians that do not have special training or knowledge in the area of pelvic varicose veins. They often cannot be detected through a traditional pelvic examination, since the veins don’t tend to protrude as much when the patient is lying down. A vein specialist with an accredited vascular lab generally has the technology and expertise to diagnose this condition so the appropriate treatment options can be explored.
Once pelvic congestion syndrome is diagnosed, treatment options can be considered. One of the most effective ways to eliminate the varicose veins associated with the condition is through a process known as embolization. During this treatment, a catheter is threaded into the varicose vein using ultrasound imaging. Coils or other tools can then be put into the vein through the catheter to seal the vein closed. The treated vein is reabsorbed by the body and blood naturally reroutes to healthy veins nearby.
Sclerotherapy, a treatment that uses a special sclerosing solution to seal the vein closed, can also be performed to eliminate pelvic varicose veins. The sclerosing agent is delivered through a catheter similar to that used in the embolization treatment. In most cases, either of these procedures can be performed using local anesthesia and recovery time is minimal.
If you suffer from chronic pelvic pain that has been undiagnosed to this point, perhaps it is time to visit a vein specialist like Dr. Draughn at Vein Specialists of the Carolinas to see if pelvic congestion syndrome might be to blame. To learn more about this condition or your treatment options, contact Vein Specialists of the Carolinas at 704-861-2072 or 704-544-5245.
“All We Do Is Veins, All Day Every Day.”