Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
What Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
The muscles, nerves and connective tissues that support a woman’s pelvic organs (such as the bladder, uterus and vagina) are called the pelvic floor. As women get older, the pelvic floor may lose strength or tear, causing pain in the pelvic area or uncomfortable symptoms such as urinary problems.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is common, affecting one in four women. Many women find it difficult to discuss with a doctor symptoms such as occasional urine leakage or pain during sex. At Baptist Health, our women’s health providers are in tune with your needs. You can trust us to offer compassionate, comprehensive care that addresses your symptoms and circumstances.
Types of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a broad term used to describe pelvic floor disorders. There are several types of pelvic floor disorders. The most common types affect:
- Bladder control, a condition called urinary incontinence
- Bowel control, a health issue referred to as accidental bowel leakage
- Pelvic organs, when part of the uterus, bladder or bowel falls too far into the vagina (called pelvic organ prolapse)
The symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction can vary depending on what part of the pelvic floor is affected. You may experience one or several symptoms, to varying degrees. Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include:
- Painful urination
- A strong urge to urinate that comes on quickly
- Frequent urination (having to urinate frequently during the day and multiple times overnight)
- Pain during sex
- A general feeling of pain or discomfort in the pelvic region
- Bowel leakage
A full understanding of causes for pelvic floor dysfunction remains unknown. However, there are several known factors that can contribute to the development of PFD. The known factors include, but are not limited to:
- Traumatic injuries to pelvic region
- Overuse of the pelvic muscles (using the bathroom too often, or pushing too hard too frequently)
- Pelvic surgery
- Psychological, sexual, or physical abuse and other life stressors
As you age, you’re more likely to have symptoms related to a pelvic floor disorder. Certain health conditions or circumstances put added stress on the pelvic floor. These also make a pelvic floor disorder more likely. These risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction include:
- Vaginal childbirth
- Parkinson’s disease
- Spinal stenosis
A thorough physical examination and discussion of your medical history will help your doctor diagnose pelvic floor disorder.
During a physical examination, your doctor may check your pelvic floor for strength or muscle spasms. If your symptoms warrant more testing, your doctor may recommend one or more specialized tests (such as a video X-ray test) that can more clearly measure how well the pelvic floor functions.
Even though pelvic floor dysfunction is common, women don’t have to accept pelvic pain or other problems as a normal part of aging. If your doctor diagnoses you with pelvic floor dysfunction, you may get significant relief from one or more pelvic floor dysfunction treatment options, including:
Simple diet changes, such as reducing your intake of beverages like soda or coffee, help improve symptoms for many women. Our women’s health providers can teach you which common foods and drinks may aggravate pelvic floor dysfunction – and what changes could offer the most relief.
Pelvic floor dysfunction physical therapy has shown to be one of the most effective treatment options. There are Baptist Health physical therapists specially trained in leading biofeedback and exercises to help women strengthen their pelvic muscles. Some Baptist Health locations offer physical therapy programs dedicated to the needs of our female patients.
Certain pelvic floor dysfunction consisting of low-dose muscle relaxants can help improve pain associated with pelvic floor disorders.
Less commonly, surgery can be an effective treatment for more severe forms of organ prolapse or other types of pelvic floor dysfunction. In these cases, your provider may refer you to a urogynecologist (a women’s health specialist with specific training related to conditions that affect the pelvic organs).
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