Pelvic Floor Disorder: A Common Problem
It’s a fact that one in three women over the age of 45 suffers from a pelvic floor disorder (PFD). The most common pelvic floor disorders are urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. The condition can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life. There are easy ways to treat the disorder, but women are oftentimes unwilling to discuss the symptoms they are experienceing because they are too embarrassed.
The older a woman gets, the greater the chance of developing a PFD. In general, pelvic floor disorders are caused by a laxity in the pelvic floor ligaments and connective tissue in the lowest part of the pelvis and weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor supports organs, including the bowel, bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum. But when the muscles are weakened or the connective tissue tears, that's when problems can begin. Why does this happen? It’s a natural part of the aging process, hormonal changes after menopause plays a role as well pregnancy, childbirth and obesity.
Pelvic organ prolapse is the most common disorder, and it happens when the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments become too weak to hold organs in the correct position in the pelvis. As the condition progresses, women can feel bulging tissue protruding through the opening of the vagina. When this happens, women may have problems controlling their bladder and bowels. Also, some have pain in the lower back, pelvis or bladder. All women may not experience the same symptoms, but it’s important to seek help if any pain or discomfort persists.
While an OB/GYN may be aware of the symptoms, women should seek out a urogynecologist, a physician with special training and significant expertise in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, if symptoms persist.
They used to just say it was a ‘female problem,’” said Jeanne McMahon, 58, who lived with bladder and uterine prolapse for more than 20 years before having surgery in the fall of 2015. With the help of nationally-recognized and highly skilled urogynecologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Dr. Cheryl Iglesia, Jeanne is now playing tennis and hiking again, and is grateful she has her life back.
Dr. Iglesia, and her patient Jeanne, discuss PFDs in this Washington Post article.