Pelvic Floor Disorders
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments and tissues that resembles a hammock and supports the organs in your pelvic area. These muscles are responsible for controlling bladder and bowel movements as well as other functions. Pelvic floor dysfunction is when the pelvic floor muscles become weak or damaged, affecting the surrounding organs.
At The University of Kansas Health System, our team coordinates care across multiple specialties to offer the latest treatments for both men and women who are living with the challenging symptoms of pelvic floor disorders. Together, we’ll work with you to determine an accurate diagnosis as well as the best course of treatment.
What are pelvic floor disorders?
Both men and women have a pelvic floor, which are the muscles, ligaments, nerves and connective tissues that support the bladder and rectum, as well as other pelvic organs. In women, the pelvic floor also supports the uterus and vagina, while in men, the pelvic floor supports the prostate.
When this support structure stops working properly, you can lose muscle control over the pelvic organs, causing incontinence and other issues. In some cases, the organs can shift in placement, dropping down. This is called prolapse. If symptoms are left untreated, pelvic floor dysfunction can not only be uncomfortable and painful but can also cause long-term damage.
Types of pelvic floor disorders
Pelvic floor disorder symptoms and risks
There are several symptoms that could indicate pelvic floor dysfunction, depending on the specific type of disorder you have:
- A feeling of heaviness in the pelvis
- Bathroom frequency or urgency, both urinary and bowel movements
- Constipation or diarrhea
- In men, erectile dysfunction
- Pain or pressure in the vagina or rectum
- Painful urination or bowel movements
- Pelvic pain
- Seeing or feeling a bulge in the vagina or rectum
- Straining to pass a bowel movement
- Urinary incontinence
Doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes the pelvic floor to fail, but there are several known risk factors:
Pelvic floor disorder diagnosis and screening
Diagnosing pelvic floor dysfunction begins with a complete medical history and physical exam, often including a pelvic and/or rectal exam. Your doctor may also have you do stress tests to check for urine leakage or prolapse when you strain or cough.
Additional tests your doctor may suggest can check for pelvic muscle control function, sphincter control and function, or effectiveness of urination or bowel movements.
Pelvic floor disorder treatment
The best treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms will depend on the specifics of your diagnosis. Different treatment options can include:
The most common treatment for pelvic floor disorders, biofeedback and physical therapy can help strengthen and retrain your muscles. Over a series of appointment sessions, your physical therapist will work with you to improve your pelvic floor muscle strength and coordination.
Stool softener can be an important part of treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction, as they can help prevent the need to strain, allowing muscles to heal.
By delivering gentle electrical signals through a thin wire, sacral neuromodulation stimulates the bladder, bowel and sphincter muscles to work correctly again.
Surgical options for treating pelvic floor disorders include overlapping sphincteroplasty and prolapse repair.