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What are Prolapses?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 27 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Prolapse Uterus Bladder Cystocoele

The word prolapse means that something is not where it should be. In women’s health this can refer to the uterus, bladder, anus or even the bowel.

They are more commonly seen in post-menopausal women as the tissues, muscles and ligaments become less supportive and lose elasticity; this is more often seen in women who have had normal vaginal deliveries. It is possible to find a prolapse in a younger person for a variety of reasons but it is not common.

Prolapse Of The Uterus

The uterus is help in place in the pelvis with the help of different ligaments and muscles. For some women these supporting structures can become weakened and the uterus can begin to fall into the vagina. There are different degrees of uterine prolapse ranging from a small descension into the vagina to a condition called procidentia when the uterus protrudes to a marked degree out of the vagina.

Prolapse Of The Bladder

A bladder prolapse known medically as a cystocoele, occurs when the bladder slips into the vagina. This can appear as a bulge in the front wall of the vaginal passage and is the most frequently diagnosed type of prolapse in women. A bladder prolapse can also include a prolapse of the urethra which is the small tube connecting the bladder with the outside world.

Prolapse Of The Anus/Rectum

Known as a rectocoele, this occurs as the very lower part of the bowel and rectum protrude into the vaginal. This is often felt as a bulging in the back wall of the vagina. It shouldn’t be confused with a rectal prolapse when the bowel can drops out of the anus.

Prolapse Of The Vagina

After a woman has undergone a hysterectomy in which the cervix is removed, the top of the vagina known as the vaginal vault has less support to stay in place. Sometimes the top of the vagina can drop down directly into the vagina canal.

General Causes Of A Prolapse

The most usual cause for a prolapse is being post-menopausal and having had normal birth in the past.In addition to this those who are obese or who smoke are also at risk.Some women may find their prolapse worsened by the presence of fibroids on the uterus. The size and position of the fibroid is very important in the likelihood of this being the cause.Prolonged bouts of coughing can also cause the muscles in the pelvis to weaken but this is not so likely to cause severe prolapses.Those who do a lot of manual work or perform an awkward lift or lift something that is particularly heavy might also find themselves at risk.

Treating Prolapses

There are many ways to treat prolapses and the nature of the treatment will depend heavily on the organs affected and the severity of the displacement.Treatments can be surgical, though it is likely that non-surgical options will be explored first as they are less invasive; this is unless the damage is severe and will not be helped by non-invasive treatments.

Prolpases occur when one or more of the pelvic organs drop out of place. They are fairly common in woman who have carried a child and given birth to it vaginally. The chances are further increased by being overweight or post-menopausal.They can be treated, though the plan of care will vary from person to person.

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