The basic anatomy of the female body places three main systems in the abdomen that can mimic each other and cause mild to severe abdominal discomfort: the bowels, the kidneys, and the reproductive organs. Knowing which area is causing issues and which specialist to see can be difficult. Your OB/GYN can assess you to determine the cause of your pelvic pain or refer you to a specialist if need be.
Below is a summary of the three most prevalent causes of pelvic pain and common conditions associated with them.
The first cause of pelvic pain that should be examined is pregnancy. If a pregnancy test is positive and a woman is experiencing pelvic pain, immediate medical care should be sought, as this could potentially be a pregnancy outside the uterus (ectopic pregnancy). Other less emergent reproductive problems in the non-pregnant female that can cause pain are ovarian cysts or endometriosis. Often times an ultrasound will be ordered to check for cysts. If severe pelvic pain is accompanied by a fever, a pelvic exam with cultures to detect infection is important since many sexually transmitted diseases can cause severe pelvic pain due to abscess formation and infection. Pain due a woman's menstrual cycle can also be severe and managed with help from an OB/GYN.
If pelvic pain is accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, or dark and tarry stools, an evaluation by a gastrointestinal specialist is appropriate. Many times pain related to the bowels can be treated with diet modification. Irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis are gastrointestinal conditions that may require a colonoscopy followed by specific medications. Sudden onset of pelvic pain with fever, nausea, and vomiting could also be appendicitis.
Kidney / Urinary Causes:
Depending on the description of the pain, the kidneys, tubes from the kidneys, and the bladder may need to be evaluated. Blood in the urine can mean a bladder infection which can be treated with antibiotics. Colicky pain that wraps around from the back to the pelvic area may be indicative of a kidney stone which can usually be found on an X-ray study with dye. If kidney stones are present, a urology specialist can manage and treat the kidney stones.
There are many causes for pelvic pain which are not all covered here. If you are experiencing pelvic pain that is interfering with your life, make an appointment with an OB/GYN