PCS (Pelvic congestion syndrome) is essentially varicose (enlarged) veins in the pelvis. This condition causes chronic pain in the pelvic area and affects up to 30% of women.
In some women, the veins in the lower abdomen are not working well due to faulty valves. Consequently, blood that should be pumped back to the heart stays in these blood vessels, enlarging and pushing down on pelvic structures, such as the bladder, bowel, and reproductive organs. This leads to the pain and other symptoms associated with PCS.
What Are The Most Common Symptoms of Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?
PCS symptoms can be chronic, which means they can last for six months or more. The most common symptom is a dull ache on one side of the lower abdomen, back, or pelvic region, but it can affect both sides. It worsens while lifting, standing, during pregnancy, during and after sexual intercourse, and at the end of the day. Besides the pain, other symptoms include:
- Varicose veins around the legs, buttocks, and vulva
- Increased urination
- Abnormal bleeding during menstruation
- Swelling in the labia, vagina, and/or perineal region
- An unusual degree of discomfort during menstruation
- Hip pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- A feeling of fullness in the legs
- Stress incontinence
Note that symptoms usually improve when lying down.
Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Causes and Risk Factors
Pelvic congestion syndrome can occur for several reasons and most commonly in women who have had multiple pregnancies. Pregnancy is a risk factor because it can cause structural changes in the pelvis, affecting blood vessels. Women also gain fluids and weight to support their baby, and the veins can't cope, becoming engorged, which damages their valves. Another possible cause is that during pregnancy, a rise in estrogen levels weakens blood vessel walls.
However, PCS can also occur in women who have never been pregnant. Other risk factors include age, family history, and obesity.
How is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Diagnosed?
PCS can be challenging to diagnose, and so doctors often rely on several diagnostic procedures. These include:
- Ultrasound - to examine the abdomen and pelvis, especially pelvic veins. These blood vessels can sometimes be difficult to image as they may be obscured by organs in that part of the body. So the vascular technician may ask you to stand during the procedure or perform breathing exercises to make blood flow patterns and veins more visible.
- CT (computerized tomography) scan
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
- Laparoscopy, which involves using tiny cameras to look inside the pelvis
- A urine test to check for urinary problems
- Venograms - a test that lets your doctor see your veins. A liquid called a contrast dye is injected, so the veins show up on the X-ray. This enables a doctor to see how the blood is flowing and if PCS is present.
How Is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Prevented?
Preventing PCS may not always be possible, but there are some things you can do that may reduce the risk of developing the condition.
- Exercising such as a brisk walk can help minimize the pooling of blood in the pelvic area by encouraging blood flow.
- A high fiber diet may reduce instances of constipation which can aggravate PCS symptoms. Foods with a high fiber content include cereals, beans, legumes, and wholegrain rice.
- Regularly wearing compression garments.
- Using compression garments during pregnancy
- Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy.
- Maintaining a healthy body max index.
Treatments for Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for the condition but treatments help to reduce and alleviate symptoms. The principal treatment options are:
Pelvic Vein Embolism
This is a minimally invasive procedure performed under local anesthetic that blocks the varicose veins that are causing chronic pain. Tiny catheters are inserted into those veins, and when they're in place, metal coils are inserted into the vessels, closing them. After a few weeks, the veins should shrink away.
As the treatment is minimally invasive, there is minimal scarring and lower rates of complications than open surgeries. You will also be able to go home on the same day,
According to studies, women who have had this procedure have shown significant improvement and enjoyed an improved quality of life.
Painkillers can be prescribed to control and reduce the pain. Hormone medication and birth control pills are also effective at suppressing ovarian activity, leading to pain relief.
Nonsurgical Procedures at MINT
Here at MINT, our specialists provide nonsurgical, nonhormonal PCS treatments that work. We specialize in solutions that minimize symptoms, helping you cope with the condition and significantly improving your quality of life.
To see how we can help you come and talk to Dr. Goke Akinwande and his friendly team. Book a consultation today.