Gyn LA is a leading OB-GYN clinic in Los Angeles, California. After many years of offering outstanding health care and services to women of all ages, we understand that abdominal pain is a symptom of an underlying health condition. With the help of the latest technology and imaging studies alongside taking a detailed history, we can make the right diagnosis. This helps us come up with an effective treatment plan.
An Overview of Abdominal Pain
From time to time, as a woman, you will experience some distress or pain in your abdomen. It could be as a result of something you ate or poor sleeping habits that are upsetting your stomach. However, abdominal pain is not always from the digestive tract. For most women, gynecological problems present as abdominal pain that is radiating from the pelvis and sometimes the back.
Certainly, if the pain persists, you should seek medical attention. However, most women ride it out, hoping it will go away. Persistent abdominal pain is a symptom that should not be ignored. It is, therefore, recommended that you get it checked by a gynecologist.
The first fear every woman has is cancer. While it may be cancer, it could also be something else. Discussed below are conditions that could cause unbearable abdominal pain.
What are The Causes of Abdominal Pain in Women?
If you still have ovaries and have not undergone menopause, you will experience abdominal pain about ten to fourteen days before your menses. This occurs when the ovaries release an egg to prepare the body for a possible pregnancy.
You will feel pain on one side of the lower belly, and it can last for a couple of hours. In most cases, the pain is sudden and sharp. The side of the belly pain depends on the ovary that released the egg. It could change sides every month or even strike the same place every time.
Also known as implantation pain, pregnancy pain is a symptom of pregnancy progress. It occurs when a growing fetus is attaching itself to the uterus or womb lining. You are likely to experience slight cramps around the time when you get your periods or approximately four weeks into pregnancy.
It is a brilliant idea to get tested if you are not sure if you are expectant.
An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the uterus' main cavity. In most cases, it occurs in a fallopian tube, and it is called tubal pregnancy. It can also occur in other body parts like the abdominal cavity, cervix or the ovary. An ectopic pregnancy cannot grow normally, and it could result in excessive bleeding if not treated in time.
What are the Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy?
Chances are you will not experience any symptoms at first. This is because symptoms are experienced as the fertilized egg grows. However, some women will have typical early pregnancy signs such as breast tenderness, nausea, and a missed period.
The first warning symptom of an ectopic pregnancy is abdominal pain. You are also likely to experience light vaginal bleeding.
If blood leaks from your fallopian tube, you will feel severe abdominal pain and pelvic discomfort. Moreover, if hemorrhage happens, you will experience shoulder pain as blood fills the abdomen and pelvis as well as extreme lightheadedness. The specific signs and symptoms experienced depend on which nerve is irritated and where the blood collects.
Also known as myomas, approximately 30% of women between sixteen and fifty years of age (reproductive years) suffer from fibroids. Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow from a womb's muscle layer. These growths vary in size: from as tiny as a size of a bean to as big as a melon.
It is still unclear what causes fibroids, but it can be linked to estrogen levels. When estrogen levels are high particularly when you take a contraceptive with estrogen or during pregnancy, fibroids swell.
Also, genetic factors are also believed to affect fibroids development. Having a relative with this condition increases the risk of developing this condition.
Treatment is only recommended for women experiencing signs and symptoms of fibroids such as heavy periods, leg pain, constipation, pain during intercourse, frequent urination, fertility issues, repeated miscarriages, and pregnancy issues. If the fibroids are not affecting your life quality, then treatment is not necessary.
During menopause, fibroids usually shrink and become less observable or even disappear for good. When treatment is needed, it could be surgery or medication. This is determined depending on the fibroids' location, any future childbearing plans, and the seriousness of symptoms.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissues that make uterine lining are present in other body organs. Usually, endometriosis appears in your pelvis or lower abdomen. It can, however, be found in any other part of your body.
With endometriosis, the displaced tissue continues to act normally (thickening, breaking down, and bleeding with every menstrual cycle). Since it has no way to exit the body, the blood is trapped. Surrounding tissues become irritated and finally develop tissue adhesions and scars.
Factors that put you at a higher risk of developing endometriosis include short menstrual cycles, heavy periods that last more than seven days, high estrogen levels, not giving birth, and low BMI.
What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
The main symptom is pelvic pain that is often related to menstrual periods though most women experience cramps during their periods, those with endometriosis experience menstrual pain that is much severe than usual.
Other common symptoms include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Pain with intercourse
- Pain with urination or bowel movements
- Fatigue, constipation, nausea, and bloating especially during periods
Can Endometriosis Cause Infertility?
Approximately 40% of women with infertility issues have endometriosis. This is because endometriosis impairs fertility in two ways, namely:
Distorting the fallopian tubes hence making it hard for them to pick an egg after ovulation, and
Causing inflammation that affects the function of the uterus, fallopian tube, ovary, and the egg.
According to the American Cancer Society, one in every seventy-eight women is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that starts inside, on the outer layer or near the ovaries. Ovaries are two small, almond-shaped organs that are located on every side of the uterus. They store eggs and produce both progesterone and estrogen.
In most cases, ovarian cancer is not detected until it spreads to the abdomen and pelvis. Also, at this stage, it is hard to be treated successfully. Generally, ovarian cancer is treated using chemotherapy and surgery.
While the early-stage of ovarian cancer occasionally exhibits any symptoms, advanced-stage cancer causes non-specific symptoms that can be confused for common benign diseases. These symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Feeling full quickly when eating
- Abdominal swelling or bloating
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
What Causes Ovarian Cancer?
It remains unclear what causes this type of cancer. However, medical practitioners have identified factors like age and family history may increase the likelihood of developing this condition.
Cancer starts when a cell develops a mutation in its DNA. This causes the cell to grow as well as multiply quickly hence creating a tumor of abnormal cells. These abnormal cells continue living as healthy cells die. They can invade surrounding tissues and spread elsewhere in your body.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the female reproductive system. It occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from the vagina to ovaries, fallopian tubes or uterus.
So how does one get PID?
You're at a higher risk of getting PID infection if you have:
- A sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea or chlamydia that has not been treated
- Multiple sex partners
- A sex partner with multiple sex partners
- Had pelvic inflammatory disease before
- You are twenty-five (25) years of age and below and are sexually active
- Used douche
- Used an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
How do I know if I have PID?
There is no test for pelvic inflammatory disease. Usually, diagnosis is based on your physical exam, medical history, among other test results. PID symptoms are very mild, and you may not realize you are suffering from PID. Nevertheless, if you have symptoms, you will notice:
- Lower abdominal pain
- Unusual vaginal discharge with an odor
- Bleeding or pain during intercourse
- Bleeding between your periods
- Burning sensation when urinating
Can Pelvic Inflammatory Disease be Cured?
PID is curable provided it is treated early. Nonetheless, treatment will not undo damages that have already occurred to your reproductive organs. The longer you take to get treatment, the more likely you have PID complications such as long-term abdominal pain, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. It is also essential to finish your medication even when the symptoms go away before the ailment is cured.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled or solid pockets on or in your ovary. They are common, especially with women in reproductive age as well as expectant mothers. In most cases, they are painless, harmless, and disappear on their own without medical attention. As a result, you could get one every month as a part of your cycle and fail to notice it.
An ovarian cyst becomes an issue when it gets bigger, fails to disappear or becomes painful. There is also a possibility of becoming cancerous, but infrequent. The risk increases as you advance in age.
Common symptoms of cysts include abdominal pain on the cyst's side, swelling, bloating, and pressure. The abdominal pain comes and goes, and it can be sharp or dull. You need to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms like:
- Fast breathing
- Throwing up
- Pain with fever
- Sudden lower belly pain
Is There a Treatment Option for Ovarian Cysts?
Most ovarian cysts do not require treatment since they disappear on their own. If the cyst is causing problems or is too large, your physician should watch it. That does not mean you should not do anything straight away.
The doctor could recommend medication. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe birth control pills. The pills will not make the cysts disappear but will stop new ones from developing.
Women near menopause with cysts may require surgery since the cysts could be cancerous. Your treating doctor may choose to remove the ovary or just the cyst depending on the severity of the ovarian cyst. Common types of procedures used include laparotomy or laparoscopy.
Salpingitis is another infection of the reproductive system that leads to inflammation of both fallopian tubes. It develops when bacteria enter your reproductive tract.
No every person with this infection experience signs and symptoms. When symptoms are present, you will notice:
- A yellow, foul-smelling discharge
- Pain during sex, menstruation or ovulation
- Dull back pain
- Frequent urination
- Spotting during periods
- Abdominal pain
Sometimes the above symptoms may go away without medical attention, giving an illusion that the underlying condition isn't there. If left untreated, it can cause long-term complications.
How a Gynecologist can Help You Handle Abdominal Pain
Women who are above twenty-one (21) years of age or are sexually active should visit their OBGYN at least once a year for screening and checkups. The sooner an issue is diagnosed, the sooner it is treated.
Also, pay attention to how you are feeling. If you're experiencing abdominal pain, your OBGYN should be able to assess the issue and offer a treatment option that will assist you to get back to your best feeling as soon as possible. Your gynecologist could use any of the following treatment options:
- Pain medication
- Hormonal medications or birth control pills
- Trigger point injection
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Physical therapy
- Laparoscopic surgery
The gynecologist could also recommend counseling as a way of managing anxiety, depression, and stress of living with abdominal and chronic pain resulting from one of the conditions discussed above.
Finding an Experienced Torrance Gynecologist
If there is one thing you should not ignore, it is persistent abdominal pain. It is crucial that you visit your gynecologist for an evaluation. While there is a possibility of something serious, it could also be minor; it's better to be safe than sorry. At Gyn LA, we believe that early intervention is the key for almost all conditions causing abdominal pain. Call us at 310-375-8446 and book your initial appointment with us. For many years, our team has been dedicated to offering services and treatment to women in Los Angeles, California, who are seeking to live a healthy life.