Chronic Female Pelvic Pain
Exams and Tests
Although your condition may be diagnosed during your first exam, don't be surprised if you need to have a series of medical appointments and tests. For many women with pelvic pain, diagnosing the cause is a process of elimination that takes a while.
Even if tests don't find any problems, it doesn't mean that there's no physical cause for your chronic pain. Tests aren't yet able to detect all causes.
It's a good idea to make a calendar or diary of your symptoms, menstrual cycle, sexual activity, and physical exertion. And keep track of any other things that you think are important, such as stressful events or illnesses. Bring it with you when you see your doctor.
To begin narrowing down the list of possible causes of your pain, your doctor will review your symptom diary and:
- Ask about your health history. This includes the history of your menstrual cycle as well as any pelvic surgery, radiation treatment, sexually transmitted infection, pregnancy, or childbirth.
- Do a Reference pelvic exam to look for signs of abnormalities. You may also have a Reference digital rectal exam. Your doctor may conduct these exams in a slower, more thorough manner than a routine pelvic exam, carefully checking for tender areas.
You may also have tests, such as:
- A Reference pregnancy test. If your test is positive, you'll also have an Reference ultrasound Opens New Window to check for signs of a Reference tubal pregnancy Opens New Window.
- Blood tests, to look for infection, anemia, and other problems.
- Tests for Reference sexually transmitted infections Opens New Window.
- Urine tests, to look for infection and Reference kidney stones Opens New Window.
- Reference Stool tests, to check for signs of blood.
Sometimes more tests are needed. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
Imaging tests (tests that take pictures of the pelvic area), such as:
- Reference Abdominal ultrasound and/or Reference transvaginal ultrasound of the pelvic area using a small ultrasound device inserted into the vagina.
- Reference Intravenous pyelogram, which uses an injected dye combined with X-rays to create pictures of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra.
- Reference CT scan, which uses X-rays to create pictures of organs and bones.
- Reference MRI, which uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to create pictures of organs and bones.
- Reference Laparoscopy. This surgical procedure uses a thin, lighted viewing instrument inserted through a small cut in the belly. If needed, scar tissue or a growth can also be removed during the procedure.
- Reference Cystoscopy, which uses a viewing instrument inserted through the urethra into the bladder.
- Reference Urodynamic studies. In these tests, a catheter is inserted through the urethra into the bladder to check for bladder problems.
- For Reference irritable bowel syndrome Opens New Window.
- For abdominal wall "trigger points." These are specific places on your abdomen that cause pain when pressed.
Your mental health
Chronic pain can have a wearing effect on the mind and emotions, which can in turn make harder to manage pain.
Your doctor may recommend a Reference mental health assessment. You'll be asked questions to find out whether such conditions as Reference depression Opens New Window, Reference insomnia Opens New Window, or stress are adding to or being caused by your chronic pain.
For the best chance of recovering from pain, you will need treatment for emotional problems like these, plus treatment for any known physical causes of pain.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference February 17, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology