Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: What You Need to Know
Do you leak a little, have trouble urinating, or feel a fullness down there? If so, you are not alone. About one-third of American women suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD).
If you have PFD, you contract muscles rather than relax. If this problem, goes untreated, you can have some serious problems. Let’s examine pelvic floor disfunction so you know what to expect along with your options for treatment.
What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) is a general term for a pelvic floor that is not working properly. Conditions related to PFD include pelvic organ prolapse, urinary or fecal incontinence, pain with intercourse, pelvic pain, and fecal or urinary urgency.
With PFD, you cannot control the muscles in your pelvic floor area. The pelvic floor is a group of ligaments and muscles in the pelvis that holds your organs in the pelvis. These organs include your uterus, bladder, and rectum.
These strong muscles act as a sling to hold those organs in place. When the muscles are compromised, these organs are not held as they should be.
There are three types of pelvic floor disorders including:
- Pelvic organ prolapse where organs can bulge through areas like the anus
- Fecal incontinence or inability to control your bowels
- Obstructive defecation or not being able to pass stool
You need to relax and contract your pelvic floor muscles to urinate and have bowel movements. If you don’t treat PFD, you can experience an infection or long-term colon damage.
Men can also suffer from this condition. They also have pelvic floor muscles.
Causes of PFD
Most pelvic floor dysfunction conditions result from an event or condition that tears connective tissue or weaken muscles. These conditions and events include:
- Nerve damage
- Traumatic injury
- Pelvic surgery
- Repeated heavy lifting
Aging can also impact that area, but it is not normal to have pelvic floor disorders. Genetics may also play a role.
There are various symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. These symptoms include:
- Lower back pain
- Urge to urinate
- Painful urination
- Muscle spasms
- Discomfort during sex
- Pain in the genital, pelvic region, or rectum areas
- Heavy feeling in the vagina area
- Incomplete bladder or bowel emptying
PFD can affect women at any age, and you may experience multiple symptoms.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should make sure you see a doctor. Don’t self-diagnose because you may have a more serious condition.
You should not be ashamed to go to a doctor to get this treated. You don’t have to live with this disorder. After a proper diagnosis, your doctor will find a successful treatment.
Your doctor will review your symptoms and perform a physical evaluation to check for any muscle knots or spasms. They can also check if a muscle is weak.
Your doctor may even use a small device to check for pelvic muscle contractions and muscle controls. This sensing device is called a perineometer and is inserted in your vagina or rectum.
There is another option that is less invasive. This option places electrodes on the area between your vagina and anus called the perineum. This device will determine how and if you can relax and contract pelvic muscles.
You don’t have to live with pelvic floor dysfunction. No one wants to wear a pad every time they exercise. There are some things you can do at home, non-invasive procedures, and surgery for extreme cases.
There are some things you can do at home to treat PFD. You need to find ways to reduce the strain on the pelvic floor area muscles. You don’t want to strain or push when using the bathroom.
You should practice relaxation techniques like stretching and yoga to relax these muscles. Warm baths are also helpful for relaxing. A bath can improve circulation to relax your muscles.
If you have PFD, Kegel exercises will not help your condition if you need to relax your muscles. This is because it requires you to contract your muscles. This is why you need to get a diagnosis from a doctor to see whether your pelvic floor is weak or if you have other issues.
You should also take a look at your diet and eat smaller portions. You may also need to limit your caffeine, which can make incontinence worse.
Several people with pelvic floor dysfunction can cure or manage this condition with nonsurgical options.
One treatment option is biofeedback or pelvic floor therapy. Your therapist monitors how you use your pelvic muscles and helps you improve your coordination. Your therapist will teach you how to contract and relax your pelvic muscles.
There is also a small device that holds the pelvic organs in place. This device is inserted in the vagina and holds these organs. If you have a weak pelvic floor, it can strengthen it without having to do exercises—see more here.
Your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxant to help prevent your muscles from contracting.
If you have a severe case, you may need to consider surgery as a last option. If your pelvic floor dysfunction is caused by a rectal prolapse, a surgery can loosen the muscles and help them relax. A rectal prolapse is a condition where rectal tissues go into your anal opening.
There is also another procedure to help control incontinence. Surgeons will repair the anal sphincter to restore bowel function. Doctors can also improve bowel control with injections to stimulate nerves located in the lower pelvis.
If you have symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, there is no need to worry. There is help out there.
You should get a doctor’s diagnosis to determine what is causing these problems. As we mentioned above, there are a variety of conditions that can cause pelvic muscle issues. Some of these conditions can be serious and require medical intervention or surgery.
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