Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Symptoms
PCS generally presents with a dull, but ongoing pain and can worsen during certain situations, such as:
- Standing for extended periods
- In the days preceding menstruation
- In the late afternoon or evening
- During and after sex
- During the late stages of pregnancy
Besides the pain, some women may experience other symptoms, including:
- dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)
- abnormal bleeding during menstruation
- varicose veins around the vulva, buttocks, and legs
- abnormal vaginal discharge
- swelling of the vagina or vulva
- tenderness of the abdomen
- increased urination
- irritable bowel symptoms
- hip pain
What Causes Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?
PCS is most commonly thought to be caused by pregnancy. This is because:
- Pregnancy can change the structure of the pelvis, which affects blood vessels and increases the risk of developing varicosities.
- Increased fluid and weight from pregnancy can put pressure on the veins. They then become enlarged and blood can’t flow back through them.
- An increase in estrogen can weaken the blood vessel walls.
The condition is uncommon in younger women or those who have not had children.
How is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Diagnosed?
The symptoms of PCS are often very characteristic and when explored thoroughly, patient symptoms can strongly suggest the diagnosis. Supporting evidence can be obtained from imaging scans which show abnormal veins, i.e., pelvic venous incompetence.
An ultrasound of the pelvis or CT can identify pelvic incompetence but only if the radiologist reading the scan is aware of this condition. It is common to diagnose and successfully treat women who have had the diagnosis missed for years because of lack of awareness amongst medical professionals.
When actively searching for the diagnosis, a dedicated pelvic ultrasound or MRI scan are excellent methods of showing abnormal veins. The gold standard for diagnosis of incompetence, however, is venography, when dye is injected into the abnormal veins under x-ray guidance, proving they are.
How to Manage and Treat Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
PCS is a condition caused by abnormal swelling of the veins in the pelvis. This is usually due to a problem with the valves in these veins. Treatment options in the past involved surgical management of these veins. This has given way to modern minimally invasive treatment in which the abnormal dilated veins are embolised. Embolising, or blocking, these abnormal veins removes this increased pressure in the pelvis and can improve pain.
- Medical – painkillers can be used but are often ineffective. As there is hormonal influence on the pain, the contraceptive pill can also be used to reduce pain.
- Embolisation – this procedure identifies the abnormal veins responsible for the pain and blocks them
- Surgery – many women have unnecessary surgery for their chronic pain, including hysterectomy, when in fact they have a condition treatable without the need for major surgery.
Only patients who are symptomatic need treatment. If you have chronic pain for which no cause has been found, then PCS may be a cause. If your symptoms do not respond to medical management then you may consider embolisation. Undoubtedly symptoms are best managed by an individual patient-centred approach and some women are best managed medically. When you are seen in rooms by the IR specialist you can trust that you will be only offered treatment if it is thought to be your best option.
Ovarian Vein Embolisation
When it comes to treating Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS) we offer a minimally invasive treatment option known as ovarian vein embolisation. It’s a procedure used to close off faulty veins so that they can’t continue to deliver blood and become enlarged, which relieves the pain and symptoms of PCS.