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Sharp Health News

Pelvic floor disorder: the 'whispered disease'

Sept. 8, 2015

Pelvic Floor Disorders

Roughly 40 percent of women will experience a pelvic floor disorder at some point in their lives. Still, many women are reluctant to discuss their symptoms — even with their doctor — leading some to refer to the conditions collectively as the "whispered disease."

Pelvic floor disorders occur when ligaments and other pelvic structures lose the ability to properly hold organs, like the uterus and bladder, in place. These conditions are more common as women age. Other risk factors include multiple vaginal childbirths, obesity, smoking and genetics.

Symptoms: from simple to severe

"The symptoms of female pelvic disorders vary from woman to woman," explains Dr. Emily Cole, Sharp Rees-Stealy's Division Chief of Urology.

"They may start out mild, like a sensation of pressure in the pelvic area; urinary leakage; or frequent, urgent trips to the bathroom. Unfortunately, for some women, the symptoms are more severe and can include pelvic pain, bowel incontinence or prolapse.

"Aside from the physical effects, these conditions can have serious psychosocial consequences, as women withdraw from certain activities and relationships are impacted. In spite of this, women often learn to simply cope with the symptoms, assuming they are a normal part of aging.

Non-surgical and surgical treatment options

You don't have to live with the discomfort of a pelvic floor disorder. There are a range of non-surgical and surgical treatment options that can help.

Non-surgical treatment: Medications and injections may help reduce the muscle spasms that can result in an overactive bladder. Specialized physical therapy or rehabilitation can help you learn exercises that can strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor.

Surgical treatment: Surgeries often involve reconstructing the pelvic floor to restore correct anatomical positioning. Minimally invasive surgical techniques, like laparoscopy, robotic-assisted surgery and vaginal-approach surgery, can reduce pain and scarring, shorten recovery time, and help you return to your normal activities more quickly.

"Female pelvic disorders are not an inevitable part of aging," says Dr. Cole. "There are options you can pursue to reduce the symptoms and improve your quality of life."

If you are living with issues like pelvic pressure, incontinence or other pelvic discomfort, it is important to have an open, honest conversation with your physician.

You don't have to live with the discomfort of a pelvic floor disorder. There are a range of non-surgical and surgical treatment options that can help.

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