In females, a group of muscles provide support for the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum. Referred to as the pelvic floor, this group of muscles can develop negative changes that cause discomfort and prevent them from providing the healthy level of support they should.
Common causes of pelvic floor dysfunction
Like most muscles, those that make up the pelvic floor can be damaged by stress or misuse. Pelvic floor dysfunction can be influenced by genetics, but it is also known to be associated with common life events like childbirth and the aging process. Obesity is also thought to be a contributing cause due to the downward stress the extra weight can place on the muscles that make up the pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can also be caused or worsened by some types of traumatic injury to the pelvic region, prolonged straining when urinating or defecating or deliberately postponing urination or defecation, and the use of some types of medications.
Signs of pelvic floor dysfunction
Pain is often a primary sign of stress associated with pelvic floor dysfunction in females. In some instances, the pain is likely to be noticed during urination, when attempting to empty the bowels or during intercourse. Feelings of intense pressure or pain in the lower back can also be a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction.
The pain associated with this condition is often intermittent at first, becoming deeper and more prolonged as the condition worsens. Some women also note experiencing painful muscle spasms in the pelvic floor area, often when attempting to urinate, defecate or have intercourse.
The importance of testing for pelvic floor dysfunction
Since pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms are similar to some other conditions, testing is the first step in diagnosing the problem and finding the right course of treatment. Urologists often use a variety of testing methods to diagnose pelvic floor dysfunction and rule out other conditions that can include:
- urinalysis to look for infections, diabetes or bladder or kidney issues
- urodynamics to evaluate the function of the urethra and bladder
- cystoscopy to look for bladder issues, like tumors or inflammation
- colonoscopy to look for colon irregularities or inflammation
- dynamic defecography to evaluate the rectum and pelvic floor condition
Women who feel they may be developing pelvic floor dysfunction should consider discussing their concerns with a urologist as soon as possible. If testing confirms a diagnosis of pelvic floor dysfunction, treatments may include biofeedback or physical therapy, as well as some types of medicines or surgical options.
To learn more, contact a urology center.