Pelvic Pain: The Master of Disguise

In July we started a new series of posts about invisible illnesses in conjunction with Covance. This month’s post is one which has a huge amount of relevance to our readers because it’s a problem which will almost certainly affect most, if not all at some point. The reason the subject caught our eye was because one study in particular has stood out for Covance recently – the trialling of a brand new treatment for chronic pain relief.

But should we be searching for a treatment for pain, if that pain is just one symptom of a bigger condition? Why not concentrate on curing the disease which is causing the pain? Unfortunately it’s not necessarily that easy and we thought we’d try and and explain why.

Pelvic pain can, of course, affect both men and women. However, gynaecological disorders mean that it is far more common in women. Women’s health issues which can cause pelvic pain include:

All of these conditions require different treatments- the problem is, they often share each others symptoms! Nausea with pelvic pain could be a symptom of sexually-transmitted PID, in which case antibiotics would be the best course of action. However, it could also be a sign of ovarian torsion, which would require surgery.

To add insult to injury, nerves in the pelvic region are shared by both the reproductive and gastrointestinal systems – so pain in the pelvis may even be caused by gut disorders like IBS, colitis or appendicitis. Fever and chills with pelvic pain might indicate appendicitis or PID; a ‘directional’ pain which affects only the left or right hand side of the pelvis might find its roots in the ovaries, or in the appendix. Pelvic illnesses can show similar symptoms even though they’re affecting a completely different set of organs!

In a nutshell, diagnosing the cause of pelvic pain is a minefield. Even for an experienced Doctor, it may be difficult to establish where the pain originated, and how best to proceed. Surgical procedures (like hysterectomy or oophorectomy) can cure some of these conditions, but will not cure all causes of pelvic pain. At any rate, this should always be viewed as a last resort, to be undertaken only when both the Doctor and the patient are confident that this is the right solution.

In the meantime, what can you do if you are a victim of this master of disguise? Keeping a diary may well help. Pain which coincides with your monthly cycle or sexual activity might point to a gynaecological cause; or you might notice that the pain is triggered by particular foods or exercise, suggesting a gastrointestinal issue. But until the cause is really understood, the best thing you can do is to keep the pain at bay, and we’re hoping we can help you with that.

If you’d like to take part in any of our clinical trials, or find out more about the work we do here at Covance, please follow this link

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