Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when pelvic structures, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum bulge or protrude into the vaginal wall. This often results in pressure, discomfort and even vaginal pain.
An estimated 34 million women worldwide are affected by pelvic organ prolapse, yet so many of these women are often too embarrassed to discuss the problem with their own doctor. As a result, many women with this condition suffer in silence.
Common symptoms of prolapse
- A bulge or lump in the vagina
- Pulling or stretching feeling in the lower groin area
- Difficult or painful intercourse
- Vaginal pain, pressure, irregular bleeding or spotting
- Frequent need to urinate (overactive bladder)
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Difficulty emptying bowels
- A feeling that the bladder is not emptying completely (stress urinary incontinence)
- Delayed or slow urine stream
What causes prolapse?
Prolapse is causes by pelvic muscles and ligaments that have been weakened or damaged over time. The most common causes of prolapse are:
- Hysterectomy and other pelvic surgeries
- Strenuous physical activity
- Family history
Types of prolapse
- Cystocele – This is a prolapse of the front wall of the vagina that often results in the bladder prolapsing into the vagina. Stress urinary incontinence is a common symptom of a cystocele.
- Rectocele – This involves a prolapse of the back wall of the vagina. As a result, the rectal wall pushes against the vaginal wall, creating a bulge.
- Enterocele – When the front and back walls of the vagina separate, the intestines push against the vaginal skin. An enterocele usually occurs following a hysterectomy.
- Prolapsed uterus – The weakening of a group of ligaments at the top of the vagina cause the uterus to prolapse into the vagina
- Vaginal vault prolapse – The top of the vagina falls toward the vaginal opening. This type of prolapse may occur following a hysterectomy.
Diagnosing Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Your doctor will begin the diagnostic process by taking a detailed medical history, performing a physical exam and by determining the strength and function of your pelvic floor muscles. Your doctor may also order additional diagnostic testing including:
- A pelvic ultrasound
- Bladder function test
- Urodynamic testing, which are diagnostic tests that evaluate the function of the bladder and urethra and include uroflow, cystometrogram, and several others.