Causes and Diagnoses
Causes and Diagnoses of Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
The causes of chronic pelvic pain are varied, but are often associated with the presence of ovarian and pelvic varicose veins. Pelvic congestion syndrome is similar to varicose veins in the legs. In both cases, the valves in the veins that help return blood to the heart against gravity become weakened and don’t close properly. This allows blood to flow backwards and pool in the pelvic veins causing pressure and bulging pelvic/labial varicose veins. In the pelvis, these veins can cause pain and affect the uterus, ovaries and vulva. Up to 15 percent of women, generally between the ages of 20 and 50, have varicose veins in the pelvis, although not all experience symptoms.
The diagnosis is often missed because women lie down for a pelvic exam, relieving pressure from the ovarian veins, so that the veins no longer bulge with blood as they do while a woman is standing.
Diagnosis and Assessment
Once other abnormalities or inflammation has been ruled out by a thorough pelvic exam, pelvic congestion syndrome can be diagnosed through several minimally invasive methods:
- Pelvic venography: Thought to be the most accurate method for diagnosis, a venogram is performed by injecting X-ray dye in the veins of the pelvis to make them visible during an X-ray.
- MRI: May be the best non-invasive way of diagnosing pelvic congestion syndrome. The exam needs to be done in a way that is specifically adapted for looking at the pelvic blood vessels. A standard MRI may not show the abnormality.
- Pelvic ultrasound: Usually not very helpful in diagnosing pelvic congestion syndrome unless done in a very specific manner with the patient standing while the study is being done. Ultrasound may be used to exclude other problems that might be causing pelvic pain.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: This technique is used to see better inside the pelvic cavity. As with a pelvic ultrasound it is not very good at visualizing the pelvic veins unless the woman is standing. However it may be used to exclude other problems.