9 Gynecologic Symptoms Women Should Not Ignore
During your lifetime, you may experience a wide variety of changing symptoms involving your gynecologic system. From the time you have your first period until you complete menopause, you can experience a wide range of symptoms. Your periods may shorten or lengthen, cramps could come and go, pelvic pain may occur, and your bladder and bowels may even make their presence known.
Below is a list of symptoms related to gynecologic illnesses or disorders that should signal a visit with your physician. If you experience any or a combination of the following, make an appointment to speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Vaginal bleeding every month during menstruation is normal, and some women will have heavier and longer periods than others. However, excessive and irregular bleeding or bleeding between periods can be signals that there is a medical concern that needs addressed. A fibroid, adenomyosis, endometriosis, polyps, medications, bleeding disorders, or even cancer could be the reasons for the abnormal bleeding. Excessive and irregular bleeding can also cause anemia and new health issues if left untreated. You should call your doctor if you experience skipped periods, extra periods, bleeding between periods, or periods that last longer than seven days for several months in a row. You should also call if you need to change your pad or tampon every hour for several hours in a row or if bleeding causes you to feel faint, weak, and tired.
From time to time, you may experience some vaginal issues that resolve quickly without too much fuss. You might have a yeast infection now and then or experience some vaginal irritation from changing soaps, detergents, and such. Though some discomfort, itching, and even discharge now and then could be normal or related to some life style changes or activities, it should not last for any period of time and should not occur frequently. You should rarely, if ever, experience vaginal pain. Let your doctor know if you experience vaginal pain, chronic discomfort or itching, or if you have discharge unrelated to your cycle. These symptoms can indicate you have an infection, STD, hormonal issue, or even a cancer concern.
Painful intercourse may occur on occasion, such as when not enough time was taken to be sure that the vaginal area was moist before or if activities were rougher than usual. However, intercourse should not be painful on a consistent basis. Several gynecologic issues can lead to painful intercourse, including endometriosis, fibroids, hormonal issues, infection, inflammation, pelvic organ prolapse, and even cancer. Though it can be a bit embarrassing to discuss, schedule an appointment with your physician if you find intercourse is painful for uncomfortable. There could be an underlying gynecologic concern which needs to be treated.
Some women will experience pelvic pain or pressure as a normal part of their cycle, such as during ovulation or when prostaglandins are released as the endometrium breaks down and sheds. However, not all pelvic pain is normal and it can be a sign that something is wrong. Endometriosis, adenomyosis, interstitial cystitis, pelvic congestion, urinary tract infection, pelvic organ prolapse, fibroids and more can all cause abnormal pelvic pain and pressure. In addition, certain gynecologic cancers may cause painful pelvic symptoms. Treated early, many conditions may have a better prognosis, so speak to your doctor as soon as possible about any chronic pelvic pain or pressure you are experiencing.
Urinary discomfort and incontinence are not normal. They can be a signs of dehydration, infection, a bladder condition such as interstitial cystitis, hormonal issues, pelvic organ prolapse, or even a cancer concern. If you experience any type of urinary discomfort or incontinence, schedule an appointment to talk to your doctor.
It is important to have regular bowel movements, even if for you that is every other day. Constipation can be a sign that you have an undiagnosed gynecologic health condition which needs to be treated, and it may cause more health issues and problems. Fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis, pelvic organ prolapse, hormonal issues, and cancer are examples of gynecologic conditions which could be the cause of chronic constipation, so talk to your doctor if this is an issue for you.
During certain points in your cycle, it’s not uncommon to experience some abdominal bloating and discomfort. You can also experience these symptoms if you eat too fast, overindulge, or have meals high in fat. However, abdominal bloating and discomfort at other times or over an extended period of time is not normal and may be a sign of a gynecologic concern, including fibroids, endometriosis, and ovarian cancer. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you experience frequent abdominal bloating and discomfort so you can more quickly find and treat the cause.
Life changes can cause changes in your appetite and weight, but extended feelings of fullness or a long term lack of appetite can be signs of a medical concern. While unexpected weightloss at times seems like a blessing, it can also indicate you have an undiagnosed gynecologic issue and possibly ovarian cancer. Though appetite and weight changes may occur for 1001 reasons, talk to your doctor if you find you have a loss of appetite, constantly feel full, or are losing weight.
Though life can sometimes leave you tired and not feeling your best, you shouldn’t feel exhausted, fatigued, or unwell for an extended period of time. If extra rest and sleep does not alleviate your tiredness, and no matter what you try you just don’t feel well, you could be dealing with an underlying gynecologic health issue that needs addressed. Hormonal imbalance, thyroid concerns, fibroids, endometriosis, cancer all lead to exhaustion so be sure to talk to your gynecologist if you feel constant fatigue.
Always see your Doctor
Symptoms listed above may not indicate anything scary, however these symptoms may indicate one of more of these gynecologic conditions: Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, Fibroids, Ovarian cancer, Cervical cancer, Pelvic Organ Prolapse, Pelvic Congestion, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Hormonal Imbalance, or Interstitial Cystitis. As such, it is important that you share your symptoms with your doctor so together you can find a diagnosis and treatment.
Common Benign GYN Conditions that may lead to hysterectomy
Adenomyosis is a condition where the endometrium (lining of the uterus) grows into the myometrium or muscular wall of the uterus. As a result, the uterus can become enlarged and even boggy, leading to discomfort, pain, and other symptoms. Most frequently, women will experience intense menstrual cramps, heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, and abdominal bloating. Other symptoms may include lower back pain, abdominal pressure, and painful intercourse. Additionally, women can pass blood clots during their period, have breakthrough bleeding, and feel fatigued. Due to excessive bleeding, some women also experience anemia.
Endometriosis is a very complex and often misunderstood medical condition that affects an estimated 10% of all women worldwide who are in their reproductive years. With endometriosis, tissue similar to the endometrial lining implants in various areas of the body though primarily in the pelvic region. More common locations for endometriosis lesions are the ovaries, fallopian tubes, peritoneum (pelvic side wall), outside of the uterus, cul-de-sac, bowel, bladder, rectum, appendix, ureters, and urterosacral ligaments. More rarely, other areas of the body can be affected from the vagina to the brain.
Uterine fibroids are a common diagnosis for women and are almost always benign (non-cancerous). As women grow older, they are more apt to develop a fibroid with many sources suggesting that up to 50% of all women will develop a fibroid by the age of 50. Women in their 40’s and early 50’s are more likely to be diagnosed with fibroids than women in their 20’s and 30’s. Fibroids account for about one third of all hysterectomies performed each in year in the United States. Not all fibroids cause symptoms but when symptoms occur they can negatively impact a woman’s quality of life. Women may have one fibroid or multiple fibroids.