About one-third of all women will experience pelvic pain in their lifetime. Almost one-half of women who suffer from pelvic pain have pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS).
PCS is a condition where varicose veins affect the pelvis (lower part of the abdomen and groin area), including the uterus, ovaries, and vulva. Just like with varicose veins in the legs, the valves in the veins of the pelvis (which return blood to the heart) become weak and do not close properly. Therefore, instead of blood flowing back to the heart properly, it backs up and pools, causing veins to bulge.
Symptoms include a dull, aching pain in the lower abdomen and back. It is often at its worst when standing for long periods of time, at the end of the day, during menstruation, during/after intercourse, and when pregnant.
Pelvic congestion syndrome typically affects women in their child bearing years (20-45 years old). Women who have had two or more pregnancies are at high risk of developing this problem. Women who have never been pregnant rarely suffer from PCS.
After ruling out other abnormalities associated with pelvic pain, your doctor will most likely use one of the following imaging techniques to diagnose PCS: pelvic venography, MRI, pelvic ultrasound, or transvaginal ultrasound.
Once diagnosed, the following treatments may be offered: embolization (inserting a thin catheter into the femoral vein to close the affected vein, analgesics, hormones, or in extreme cases, surgery (including tying off/removing the veins or a hysterectomy).
Although the above treatments usually improve the condition, other veins can later become affected and require treatment.
Using herbs for pelvic congestion syndrome can help improve vein function and relieve symptoms. Not only can it be an effective treatment, it can also help prevent future occurrences.
The following herbs have been shown to be the most useful in improving vein structure and function:
An extract of gotu kola (with 70% triterpenic acids) has demonstrated impressive results in the treatment of varicose veins. It increases the integrity of the perivascular sheath (connective tissue surrounding the frail vein), giving it support and thus improving the function of the vein.
An extract of horse chestnut seed (standardized for escin) can reduce edema and inflammation, decrease capillary permeability, and improve venous tone.
Butcher's broom is a vasoconstrictor and decreases inflammation. Most research on butcher's broom extracts were done in combination with hesperidin (a bioflavonoid) and vitamin C.
Extracts of berries rich in proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins (such as blackberries, blueberries, hawthorn berries, and cherries) improve the integrity of the venous wall and increase the muscular tone of the vein. Bilberry and grapeseed extracts can help treat and prevent varicose veins.
Eating a diet high in fiber and foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc (along with flavonoid-rich berries) can also help strengthen venous walls.
Before using herbs for pelvic congestion syndrome, it is best to consult with a professional herbalist.
Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (1998)
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