Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a very common condition in women and is related to stretching and weakening in the pelvic support structure, called the pelvic floor. Made up of muscles and connective tissues, the pelvic floor supports the organs within the pelvic cavity, including the uterus, bladder and rectum.
POP occurs when the pelvic floor tissues become too weak or stretched to hold the pelvic organs in their proper place, allowing them to slip lower in the pelvis and place pressure on the vaginal walls. Symptoms, which can range from mild to severe ones that can be very difficult to live with, are most likely to appear after the age of 50.
Who is at Risk?
Most cases of POP are the result of a gradual accumulation of damage to the pelvic floor throughout a woman’s lifetime. Pregnancy and childbirth top the list as contributors to that damage, but there are other factors that can raise your risk of pelvic organ prolapse. Genetics can be a factor, so women with a family history of POP are at higher risk, as are women who have had a hysterectomy or other pelvic surgery.
Anything that places excessive or repetitive pressure on the abdomen can contribute to the development of POP, such as obesity, chronic coughing, heavy lifting, frequent constipation and high-impact sports, like sky-diving, weight lifting or long-distance running. Often, the final step in the development of pelvic organ prolapse is menopause, as changes in estrogen levels reduce elasticity in the pelvic floor, causing further weakness.
Symptoms and Treatments
Not every woman who has pelvic organ prolapse will have symptoms, but women who do report issues that can include pain, pressure or a persistent feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen, irregular vaginal bleeding or spotting, painful sex, involuntary urination and difficult bowel movements. Women can develop a noticeable bulge in the vagina, or organs may begin to protrude from the vaginal opening.
Mild to moderate symptoms are often treated successfully with a combination of pelvic floor exercises, weight loss and dietary changes. Some women find relief with the use of a pessary, which is a device that is inserted into the vagina to support pelvic organs.
Severe symptoms may require surgical intervention, an option that has offered great relief to many women who have had their lives affected by pelvic organ prolapse. However, if surgery is recommended for you, it is important to learn about all your options and discuss them with your doctor, since some POP repair procedures carry more risk than others.
For instance, procedures that use vaginal mesh implants to repair POP have come under fire in recent years for high rates of complications, prompting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue alerts calling their safety and effectiveness into question. According to the FDA, serious problems like mesh erosion, mesh protrusion through vaginal walls, mesh shrinkage and organ perforation are rising rapidly. Many women are suffering because of these side effects; many others have filed transvaginal mesh lawsuits to seek compensation for the physical and emotion pain caused by mesh use. In addition, the FDA says these procedures have proven no more effective than traditional POP surgeries, and that in many cases the risks of using transvaginal mesh outweigh the benefits.
Elizabeth Carrollton writes to inform the public about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com. Many people are affected by issues such as transvaginal mesh use; Elizabeth works to make sure that the general public is properly informed on these issues.
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