Pelvic Pain Causes & Conditions
Pelvic pain is any discomfort felt between the belly button and the top of the legs. Pelvic pain causes and conditions are many and varied, and can depend on whether you are a man or a woman. Pain in the pelvis can result from anything from a digestive issue to appendicitis, depression or a problem in the reproductive system. For this reason, prompt medical attention is important to properly diagnose and treat severe or ongoing pelvic pain.
Reproductive System Causes of Pelvic Pain in Women
Some women feel mild to moderate pelvic pain each month during ovulation. Known as mittelschmerz (German for “middle pain”), ovulation discomfort is often felt as a sharp twinge or ache. Usually occurring low in the pelvis on one side or the other, mittelschmerz ordinarily does not signify a problem.
Similarly, pelvic cramps are common at the onset of a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle, and typically do not point to a problem, unless cramping is severe, as in the case of endometriosis. This chronic condition results from uterine tissue that has developed outside the uterus and requires professional diagnosis and treatment.
Other types of pain originating from the reproductive system can also indicate a serious problem. An ectopic pregnancy—when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus—is a life-threatening condition that can cause sharp pelvic pain or cramping, usually on one side, along with nausea, dizziness and vaginal bleeding. Prompt medical attention is important when an ectopic pregnancy has occurred.
Ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids are both relatively common, usually harmless and often resolve on their own, without pain. Ovarian cysts, however, can cause pelvic pressure or even sharp pain, especially if they happen to twist or burst, and must be diagnosed by ultrasound. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow within or on the uterus wall and are common among women in their 30s and 40s. These growths normally don’t cause problems, but can cause pelvic pressure or pain during sexual intercourse.
More common among women as they age, pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when the uterus, bladder or rectum slips downward in the body due to weakened ligaments and tissues. POP usually does not cause intense pelvic pain, but can cause pelvic pressure and discomfort, particularly during sexual activity.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Gonorrhea, chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause pelvic pain, along with unusual discharge and other symptoms. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a possible STD complication. This condition is a uterine infection caused by germs, often from gonorrhea or chlamydia, that have traveled from the vagina into the womb. PID causes a dull pain in the stomach, pelvis or upper right abdomen, which can make it difficult to distinguish from other pelvic or abdominal pain causes. PID and STDs require diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional.
Kidney Stones, Urinary Tract Infections and Interstitial Cystitis
Kidney stones are caused by hard mineral deposits in the kidneys that form into small, sharp crystals, which must be passed through urination. Passing a kidney stone is typically a very painful process that can take hours or days. Sharp waves of pain are felt through the flanks, sides and pelvis, and are often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Kidney stones are a potentially critical condition that requires diagnosis by a medical professional.
If you feel a frequent urge to urinate, you experience pain when you do urinate or your bladder still feels full after urination, you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs occur when bacteria lodges in the urinary tract, and prompt treatment can keep these infections from becoming more serious. Not only are UTIs typically quite uncomfortable, if left untreated, they can develop into a kidney infection.
UTI symptoms are similar to those of interstitial cystitis (IC), a condition related to bladder inflammation that is common among women in their 30s and 40s. Along with frequency and pain during urination, IC can cause lower pelvic pain, especially during sexual intercourse.
Appendicitis is another potentially serious cause of pelvic pain that requires prompt medical attention. Appendicitis causes pain in the lower right part of the abdomen and can range from dull to sharp. If pelvic pain is felt on the lower right side and is accompanied by fever, nausea or vomiting, seek medical attention right away. Appendicitis is rare in children under two years old, and is most common in people between the ages of 10 and 30.
Other Pelvic Pain Causes
Pelvic pain causes can be mysterious. Even depression can lead to pain in the pelvis, as can irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive problems. If you experience pelvic pain, whether dull, sharp, intermittent, chronic or acute, compassionate assessment by the medical professionals at Balcones Pain Consultants can help you determine the right course of treatment for better health.