A Woman’s Guide to Prolapse

According to the Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support, half of the female population will experience Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) at some point in their lives. Studies show that in 2010, 3.3 million women in the United States experienced POP and the numbers have continued to rise. Pelvic Organ Prolapse is a condition defined as the displacement of pelvic organs due to the loss of support from damaged or weakened tissue.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of POP, it can be difficult to talk about - even with your health care provider. As an industry leader in urological and women’s continence issues, Greater Boston Urology (GBU) is dedicated to helping women overcome the challenges of POP and incontinence in a respectful and comfortable environment. There are five types of prolapse; what causes each condition, and its symptoms can vary between individuals. If you’re experiencing any of the POP signs below, GBU can help.

Cystocele (Anterior Prolapse): The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), describes cystocele as the bulging or dropping of the bladder into the vagina. This occurs when the muscles and tissue between a woman’s bladder and vagina are weakened and stretched, allowing for the bladder to droop from its usual position and swell into the vagina or through the vaginal opening. Women may experience cystocele after vaginal childbirth and activities which cause repeated strain to the pelvic area (constipation, chronic coughing, heavy lifting, and obesity). Indications of cystocele include voiding during night hours, loss of bladder control, and frequency. (http://1.usa.gov/215Ms5D)

Rectocele (Posterior Prolapse): According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS), rectocele is a herniation (bulge) of the front wall of the rectum into the back wall of the vagina. This happens when the tissue between the rectum and vagina becomes thin and feeble. Most patients who experience rectocele have no symptoms, and ASCRS reports that 40% of women will have rectocele found on a routine physical exam. When symptoms occur, they include difficulty evacuating the bowel, sensation of fullness in the vagina, protruding tissue, sexual discomfort, and vaginal bleeding. (http://bit.ly/1lU7TpN)

Enterocele (Small Bowel Prolapse): The Mayo Clinic indicates that enterocele occurs when the small intestine descends into the lower pelvic cavity, pushing against the top of the vagina to create a bulge. Childbirth and aging can add force to the pelvic floor, causing it to deteriorate. Symptoms include a feeling of fullness or pulling sensation, lower back discomfort, a protrusion of soft tissue, and painful intercourse. (http://mayocl.in/1l7QjOw)

Uterine Prolapse: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) shares that uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus drops down and presses into the vaginal area. Uterine prolapse is more common in women who have had one or more vaginal births. Other risk factors include aging, lack of estrogen after menopause, chronic coughing, obesity, and rarely, a pelvic tumor. Symptoms include pressure or heaviness in the pelvis/vagina, difficulties with sexual intercourse, leaking or urgency, lower backache, reoccurring bladder infections, and bleeding. (http://1.usa.gov/1M7v45l)

Vaginal Vault Prolapse: Following a hysterectomy, it’s possible for the top portion of the vagina to breakaway from the muscles of the pelvic floor. This can cause the cervix to protrude out of the vagina. Ulcers may develop from friction against clothing. (http://bit.ly/1lU7TpN)

If you’re experiencing POP, options are available to counteract your symptoms and let you enjoy the activities you love without concern. For mild prolapse, daily Kegel exercises may help to strengthen the pelvic floor. A rubber or plastic device called a “pessary” may also be inserted to support the prolapsed organ. Severe POP can be corrected through surgery by sealing off the vagina or using transvaginal mesh to repair the prolapse. Through its partnership with ASTORA Women’s Health, a trusted leader in POP and incontinence solutions, GBU is able to offer its patients a wide variety of the very best options to treat pelvic health conditions. (http://bit.ly/1OtMz1r)

For additional information on POP, or to schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns, call GBU today at (855) 505-3335.

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