Female Reproductive Disorders

The Seriousness of Female Reproductive Disorders

Female reproductive disorders negatively affect millions of American women each year. They can have serious effects on a female's future fertility and diminish her overall health and wellness. Reproductive disorders can sometimes cause potentially life-threatening situations. Regular medical care, monitoring for the possible development of a reproductive disorder, and prompt treatment of female reproductive diseases can help to minimize the adverse effects of these conditions. Some of the most common female reproductive disorders include:

  • Uterine tumors (cancers).
  • Leiomyomas (uterine fibroids)
  • Endometriosis (endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus).
  • Ectopic pregnancy (fertilized egg grows outside the uterus).
  • Orgasmic dysfunction (problems achieving orgasms).
  • Dysparenunia (painful sexual intercourse).
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (ovaries and/or adrenal glands produce abnormal amounts of male hormones).

Female reproductive disorders have many of the same signs and symptoms, including such things as abnormal vaginal bleeding, heavy menstruation, severe abdominal and pelvic pain, painful intercourse, and problems conceiving.

The Female Reproductive System

The human female reproductive system contains the external genitalia, vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Female reproductive disorders adversely affect millions of American women each year, regardless of age. These diseases can have serious effects on a female's fertility, diminish a woman's health and wellness, and affect overall quality of life. Reproductive disorders can sometimes cause potentially life-threatening situations.

Female reproductive conditions have many of the same signs and symptoms, including such things as abnormal vaginal bleeding, heavy menstruation, severe abdominal and pelvic pain, painful intercourse, and problems conceiving. Since so many signs and symptoms overlap, it is important to promptly seek the advice of a doctor.

Uterine Tumors

There are different types of uterine tumors or cancers. The most common type is cancer of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). Treatment for uterine tumors varies depending on overall health, the tumor stage, and whether or not hormones affect its growth. Typically, treatment options include a hysterectomy (surgical procedure to remove the uterus alone or the uterus plus ovaries/fallopian tubes) as well as other options like hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Symptoms of uterine cancers include:

  • Vaginal bleeding and/or abnormal discharge.
  • Urination problems.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Painful intercourse.

Risk factors include:

  • Post-menopause.
  • Obesity.
  • Estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy.

Leiomyomas

Leiomyomas, more commonly known as uterine fibroids, are the most commonly occurring benign tumors in childbearing age females. These growths are composed of muscle and other tissues that grow in and around the walls of the uterus. The causes of fibroids are unknown. However, the cause may be linked to estrogen. Treatment for fibroids may include medications that stop or slow down tumor growth and surgery. While many women who have leiomyomas do not experience symptoms, they can include:

  • Heavy and/or painful periods, as well as bleeding in between periods.
  • Feeling of "fullness" in the lower abdominal region.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Painful intercourse.
  • Constipation.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Reproductive problems (i.e., infertility, multiple miscarriages, and/or premature labor).

There are also certain risk factors including:

  • African American descent.
  • Overweight.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a reproductive disorder where the endometrial tissue normally lining the uterine walls grows outside the uterus. It can grow behind the uterus or on the ovaries, bowels, and/or bladder. Once again, the cause of this condition is unknown. Pain medications, hormones, and/or surgical intervention are some of the treatment options.

Some women with endometriosis are asymptomatic, but it can cause:

  • Problems conceiving.
  • Severe pain, typically within the abdominal, lower back, or pelvic regions.
  • Very heavy menstrual periods.

Ectopic Pregnancy

In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, generally within one of the two fallopian tubes. It can occasionally occur within an ovary, stomach, or cervix. An ectopic pregnancy usually results in the woman suffering a miscarriage. Often, an ectopic pregnancy is caused by a condition that blocks or impedes movement of a fertilized egg down the fallopian tube into the uterus. Immediate medical treatment is required for this condition. Doctors utilize drugs or surgery to remove the ectopic tissue so further organ damage does not result.

Causes of ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Fallopian tubes defects from birth.
  • Ruptured appendix complication.
  • Endometriosis.
  • Previous ectopic pregnancy.
  • Past infection/surgical scarring.

It can be a medical emergency, especially if it ruptures. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe abdominal pain.
  • Pain in the shoulder.
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Dizziness and/or faintness.

Increased risks for an ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Being over the age of 35.
  • Becoming pregnant with an intrauterine device (IUD) in place.
  • Reversed tubal ligation.
  • Multiple sexual partners.
  • In vitro fertilization.

Orgasmic Dysfunction

Orgasmic dysfunction is a reproductive disorder where a female cannot achieve an orgasm, or she experiences difficulty reaching orgasm, when sexually excited. When a woman has never experienced an orgasm, it is referred to as primary orgasmic dysfunction. This affects from 10 to 15 percent of women. Secondary orgasmic dysfunction is when a female has had at least one orgasm previously, but is unable to do so currently. It is estimated that 33 to 50 percent of women are dissatisfied with their frequency of having orgasms.

Many causes and risk factors can contribute to orgasmic dysfunction including:

  • Previous history of sexual abuse and/or rape.
  • Bored with monotonous sexual activities.
  • Certain antidepressant drugs (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, etc.).
  • Hormonal disorders, menopause, or chronic medical conditions.
  • Conditions affecting nerve supply to the pelvic area (multiple sclerosis, diabetic neuropathy, or spinal cord injuries).
  • Negative attitudes concerning sex.
  • Shyness and/or embarrassment about asking a partner for stimulation that help the female achieve orgasm more easily.
  • Relationship issues.

Dysparenunia

Dysparenunia is defined as painful sexual intercourse in females. Pain can occur in the genital area or deep within the pelvis. Sufferers often describe the pain associated with dysparenunia as burning and sharp pain that is similar to menstrual cramps. This condition can have physical and psychological causes.

Physical causes may include:

  • Diabetes.
  • Heart disease.
  • Nerve disorders.
  • Hormone conditions.
  • Certain drugs.
  • Orgasmic dysfunction.

Psychological causes may include:

  • Excessive stress.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Marriage/relationship problems.
  • Past sexual trauma.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) results when the ovaries or adrenal glands produce abnormal amounts of male hormones. This reproductive condition can cause fluid-filled cysts to grow on the ovaries. It is the most common female endocrine disorder affecting from 5 to 10 percent of all women. Those who are obese are at an increased risk for developing polycystic ovary syndrome.

Sufferers of PCOS are at an increased risk for medical conditions like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and hypertension. There is no cure for PCOS. However, certain medications can help keep signs and symptoms under control. Birth control pills help women achieve normal periods, reduce male hormone levels, and treat acne. Other drugs can decrease abnormal hair growth and/or control blood pressure.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Infertility.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Excessive growth of hair on the face, stomach, chest, thumbs, and/or toes.
  • Baldness and/or thinning of the hair.
  • Oily skin, acne, and/or dandruff.
  • Thickened dark brown and/or black skin patches.

Resources

  • Family Doctor (2013). Dysparenunia. Retrieved from: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/dyspareunia.html
  • Medline Plus (2013). Endometriosis. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/endometriosis.html
  • Medline Plus (2013). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/polycysticovarysyndrome.html
  • Medline Plus (2013). Uterine Cancer. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/uterinecancer.html
  • Medline Plus (2013). Uterine Fibroids. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/uterinefibroids.html

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