Vaginal prolapse is a common condition in women that involves a weakening of the muscles and ligaments that support the vagina. It results in the inability of these structures to keep the vagina in its proper anatomical place so it moves downward from its normal position. A vaginal prolapse typically causes pressure, stretching and pain, and in severe cases, tissue may actually protrude from the vagina.
Symptoms of Vaginal Prolapse
Women with vaginal prolapse may experience the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination
- Pain during intercourse
Women suffering from vaginal prolapse may also have difficulty thoroughly emptying the bladder or bowels.
Causes of Vaginal Prolapse
Vaginal prolapse is most often caused by the strain placed on the pelvic muscles during childbirth, since vaginal deliveries commonly stretch or weaken the pelvic muscles. Other factors that put pressure on the pelvis and may lead to vaginal prolapse include:
- Chronic cough
- Frequent constipation
- Tumors in the area
Aging, menopause, and the deterioration of nerves and muscles over time, may also contribute to the loss of pelvic floor strength and the development of prolapse.
Diagnosis of Vaginal Prolapse
A doctor can usually diagnose vaginal prolapse through a physical and pelvic examination, review of symptoms, and pregnancy and medical history. In addition, the following tests may be performed:
Treatment for Vaginal Prolapse
Treatment for vaginal prolapse may vary depending on the symptoms the patient is experiencing and the severity of the displacement. Conservative methods of treatment will usually be recommended initially, but in many cases, surgery or other methods of treatment may be necessary. More severe cases of vaginal prolapse may benefit from surgery to repair damaged tissue and reposition the vagina in its correct placement.
Patients with mild symptoms can often treat their condition at home through Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic muscles. In addition, losing weight, stopping smoking and avoiding strenuous activities, may also help to treat vaginal prolapse.
Cases of vaginal prolapse that do not respond to conservative treatments may require the insertion of a pessary. A pessary is a small synthetic device, surgically inserted into the vagina to relieve pain and pressure and hold the organs in place.
Surgery to repair vaginal prolapse can be performed with a minimally-invasive laparoscopic procedure through the abdomen. The surgeon begins the prolapse surgery by repairing defects of the pelvic floor muscles and restoring the anatomical structures involved. The vagina and any other organs that have shifted are repositioned. The vagina is held in place using stitches to attach it to the proximal ligaments or tissues. The vaginal abnormality is then repaired, which may include the use of mesh material or a graft.
Left untreated, symptoms of vaginal prolapse can get worse over time.