4 Ways to Slash Pelvic Pain
Posted 6/13/2016 by UHBlog
If you regularly miss work, change your plans and/or suffer from qualify-of-life issues because of pelvic pain, you’re not alone. Millions of women have some form of chronic pelvic pain lasting six months or longer. Although there are many different conditions that cause pelvic pain, one of the most common is uterine fibroids.
“These are one of the biggest causes of pelvic pain,” says interventional radiologist Jon Davidson, MD.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous, grow in the uterus, and are one of the most common tumors of the female reproductive tract. Usually, they’re detected during your routine pelvic exam. The condition affects anywhere from 20 percent to 80 percent of women by the time they reach age 50 with symptoms that include:
- Menstrual pain and cramping
- Bleeding between your periods
- Infertility and/or miscarriage(s)
- Frequent need to pee
- Urinary tract infection
- Pain during sex
- Lower back pain
- Anemia from blood loss
While the cause of uterine fibroids isn't known, doctors do know that certain groups of women are more susceptible to developing them. For instance, age is a factor, with women in their 30s and 40s most affected. Likewise, obesity and eating habits (i.e., red meat eaters) are thought to cause fibroids to develop.
Ethnicity also plays a role.
“It’s a prevalent disease within African-American women,” Dr. Davidson says. In fact, over one-third of African-American women develop the condition.
According to Dr. Davidson, treating the condition depends on your age and future plans. Among the treatment options used to slash pelvic pain caused by uterine fibroids are:
- Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) – Also known as uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), this procedure shrinks fibroids by blocking off their blood supply. An interventional radiologist uses a minimally invasive technique that involves identifying which arteries supply blood to the fibroids and then blocking off those arteries. Once the blood supply is gone, the fibroids shrink and symptoms usually decrease or disappear.
“This procedure is done on an outpatient basis and you’ll go home the same day,” he says. “The recovery time is usually about one week for most women.”
University Hospitals MacDonald Women's Hospital has a dedicated Fibroid Clinic where this procedure is offered. While most women like the fact that embolization is minimally invasive, it can be less effective than a hysterectomy where your uterus is removed, Dr. Davidson says.
“There is a small chance it may not work (at eliminating pelvic pain) and if you’re young, your fibroids can return,” he says.
- Hysterectomy – Women who no longer want to get pregnant may opt for this procedure.
“This treatment is a major surgery that requires a longer recovery time lasting from four to six weeks,” Dr. Davidson says. “It’s the only sure way to cure uterine fibroids but like any surgery, it has its risks.”
- Myomectomy – This is another surgical option that enables your doctor to treat the symptoms without removing your uterus.
- Medications – According to Dr. Davidson, some birth control drugs can help keep fibroids at bay, although they, too, have some risks.
“Every procedure has its pros and cons,” he says. “Your doctor can help you decide which option will work best for your situation.”
Jon Davidson, MD is a vascular and interventional radiologist at University Hospitals. You can request an appointment with Dr. Davidson or any other University Hospitals doctor online.