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Pelvic Congestion Syndrome

Clinical Overview

Reviewed by Brian R. Robinson, MD

Pelvic congestion syndrome is caused by a disorder in the veins connected to the pelvic area. In patients with pelvic congestion syndrome, leakage occurs in the valves in the veins that assist in blood flow from the pelvic area toward the heart. Blood then flows backward and pools in the veins, causing pain and discomfort.

In normally functioning veins, blood flows in only one direction, and is prevented from flowing backwards by periodically occurring valves in the veins that route the blood and close after blood passes through. In patients with Pelvic congestion syndrome, these valves do not work properly; they either open at the wrong time or never close completely, allowing blood to pool where it does not belong. This pooling causes the veins to stretch, putting unhealthy amounts of stress on veins and vein walls, and with painful results. The uterus, ovaries, and vulva may all be affected by pelvic congestion syndrome.

Many women suffering from it have also been treated for varicose veins in their legs without experiencing pain relief. These leg treatments may not have been successful because the pelvic vein problems were not recognized. Women who have a tipped uterus or have had two or more pregnancies are at a higher risk for pelvic congestion syndrome.

The cause of pelvic congestion syndrome is unclear, but anatomic or hormonal abnormalities or dysfunction may be possible sources.

Last updated: Jan-01-00

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