The following is a guest post from Drugwatch.com, a site committed to helping consumers stay informed about prescription drugs and medical devices that could negatively impact your health.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is diagnosed in 50 percent of women during their lifetime. It is usually diagnosed during menopause, when decreasing estrogen levels cause tissues to become thin and weak. Pregnancy and childbirth are the predominant causes of POP, due to the strain they place on the pelvis. However, there are other factors involved, such as obesity, smoking and genetic predisposition. There are a wide range of treatments for POP, and some of them can pose serious health risks.
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
When pelvic tissues and muscles become weak, pelvic organs can begin to drop away from the pelvic bone structure and sag onto the pelvic floor. In mild cases of POP, women may not experience any symptoms. In more severe cases, organs, namely the uterus, bladder and rectum, will begin to collapse into the vaginal canal. Moderate to severe physical symptoms include:
· An inability to insert a tampon
· Unusual incontinence
· Discomfort during sexual intercourse
· A pulling/tugging sensation in the pelvic region and/or lower back
· Weakened stream of urine and/or difficulty beginning to urinate
· Having to manually push back against prolapsing organs to urinate or defecate
Treatment for Pelvic Organ Prolapse
For anyone who is asymptomatic, or diagnosed with mild to moderate POP, non-invasive treatments might be the best options. These treatments include:
· A Healthy Lifestyle: Quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, eat well and exercise regularly. These tips can help keep pelvic tissues healthy and strong.
· Exercise for the Core: There are certain exercises known to strengthen pelvic floor and core muscles. These include Kegel exercises, Yoga and Pilates.
· Physical Therapy: Women who are diagnosed with POP can ask to be referred to a pelvic physical therapy specialist for more specific exercises that reverse POP symptoms.
· Vaginal Pessaries: These are custom-measured and fitted. When inserted properly, they provide support to the upper vagina and uterus. They can prevent organ prolapse and usually reverse incontinence.
Surgical intervention is often recommended for women with more severe symptoms of POP. It’s imperative that women understand that certain surgeries have been linked to severe health complications.
Surgical options used to treat POP include:
· Hysterectomy: This is a traditional method of treating POP when the uterus is prolapsing into the vagina. While it is relatively safe, women have a chance of experiencing further prolapse over time.
· Natural grafting materials: Surgeons can use natural materials to create support and hold organs in place. These procedures are usually successful and have not been linked to serious complications.
· Transvaginal mesh: These devices, which are inserted through the vagina to support the pelvic organs, have been labeled risky by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they cause complications in more than 10 percent of women who have prolapse repair done this way. The complications are widespread and include pain and discomfort, incontinence, organ perforation, recurrent infection, and pain during sexual intercourse.
Complications stemming from transvaginal mesh surgery can be difficult or impossible to correct. Complications often require multiple revision surgeries and extended hospital stays. Thousands of women affected by these complications have filed vaginal mesh lawsuits.
Women should feel comfortable seeking multiple opinions before electing to undergo surgical intervention and choose the treatment that will provide the safest solution for their POP symptoms.