If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, you’re certainly not alone. PCS prevalence is high, with 15% of women aged 18-50 suffering from the condition in the United States and up to 43.% worldwide.
What is pelvic congestion syndrome?
PCS is one of the primary causes of chronic pelvic pain in women and can lead to severe disability. Since there are several types of chronic pelvic pain, the condition can be hard to diagnose. However, it’s likely that when the pain worsens when standing and is relieved by laying down, the culprit is PCS. Some patients may also experience pain when urinating during or after intercourse.
PCS can also cause varicose veins to form in the pelvis, buttocks, thighs, and vaginal area.
How PCS develops
Pelvic Congestion Syndrome affects the veins that form part of the body’s circulatory system delivering blood.
Arteries are responsible for carrying the oxygen-rich blood from the heart to all areas of the body, whereas veins transport the blood back up to the heart. The movement of blood down to the torso is assisted by gravity, but gravity makes it hard for veins to carry the blood back uphill. Each heartbeat causes tiny valves to open and close, trapping the blood in small segments in the veins, preventing it from flowing backwards. As a result, the veins bloat and twist as the blood accumulates, similar to the varicose veins you may have on your legs.
On occasions, the valves can fail, enabling the blood to flow backwards and collect in the veins surrounding the ovaries. These congested veins cause pain when they press against nearby nerves.
Symptoms of PCS
PCS symptoms often don’t develop until a woman is pregnant, and in many cases, they continue long after pregnancy.
- A dull ache or ‘dragging’ pain in the lower back or pelvis that is worse around the time of the menstrual cycle and particularly bad when standing.
- Discomfort during or after sexual intercourse
- Irritable bladder that may lead to stress incontinence
- Irritable bowel (recurring pain in the abdomen and diarrhea alternating with constipation)
- Varicose veins at the top of the inner thighs
- Bulging veins around the front vaginal passage
- Headaches, mood swings, abdominal bloating, and fatigue
Diagnosis of PCS
While doctors didn’t always know about PCS or didn’t look for the condition in the past, PCS often went unnoticed. Fortunately, medical professionals are more aware of the condition and can diagnose PCS utilizing imaging technology. Tests such as MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging) and ultrasound are commonly used to diagnose PCS.
How is PCS treated?
Here at MINT, we use a treatment known as embolization, during which a special technique is used to close the affected vein, preventing blood from accessing the blood vessel. The clinician then releases tiny coils, creating controlled scarring and forcing the blood to reroute to nearby veins. Embolization drains the varicose vein, relieves the pressure on nearby nerves, and alleviates the pain of pelvic congestive syndrome. Embolization is safe and successful in almost all women. It takes 2-4 weeks for women to feel the benefits of the treatment, and most patients remain symptom-free for many years.
What to expect during the procedure
A tiny opening is made in the groin to insert a thin, flexible tube into a bulbous vein during the procedure. The doctor uses imaging to guide the tube or catheter to the affected vein.
A chemical known as a sclerosant is then injected into the vein via the catheter. The chemical irritates the inside of the vein being treated, causing it to swell and close.
The procedure is performed as an outpatient service and only requires local anesthesia, so there are none of the risks associated with general anesthesia. However, patients can request sedation to help them relax.
Once the procedure has been completed, the doctor removes the catheter and applies pressure to stop any bleeding. The tiny opening in the skin will be covered with a dressing.
Patients may feel a little tired if they opt for sedation, and they may feel discomfort and pain, which can usually be relieved with over the counter painkillers. It’s important to avoid heavy lifting and vigorous exercise for a week.
If you’re suffering pelvic pain it could be PCS. Why not contact Dr Goke Akinwande and the friendly team at MINT for diagnosis and treatment. Contact us for more information or use our online booking service to schedule an appointment at one of our 5 clinics, including the latest addition in Chicago, IL.