Understanding the Cause and Treatment of Pelvic Fluid
It is not uncommon for women to complain of pain in the lower left or right side of the abdomen only to be told that the cause is free pelvic fluid. But what does that really mean? A great deal of women are left wondering whether the pain will ever go away without treatment and if the condition can be a threat to their health. We are going to address these concerns and more as we delve into the causes behind the accumulation of pelvic fluid and what treatments are available.
Free fluid in the pelvis is a term used to describe the fluid that has leaked from a ruptured cyst. A cyst is a blister-like tissue that is formed naturally by the ovary. Every woman produces a cyst before ovulation which will house the egg until ovulation occurs. After ovulation, a cyst may form to make progesterone. These are considered to be “functional” cysts because they actually serve a purpose in the body. When the cyst ruptures, such as during ovulation, the fluid that leaks out is called pelvic fluid. Sometimes the rupture of a cyst can cause pain, but it usually does not last for a prolonged period of time. Because ovulation occurs in the middle of the cycle, it is usually around this time that the pain is most prevalent.
Several studies have been conducted to learn more about the free fluid that can gather in the pelvis. In most women, the amount of fluid present in the pelvic area varied all throughout the duration of their cycle. The highest percentage of fluid was often detected five days before their menstrual period was due to start. The second highest percentages were found on days thirteen and twenty-one. Therefore it is not uncommon for women to have some small amount of fluid in the pelvis at any given time. When a cyst fails to rupture, it can produce quite a lot of pain, especially when the person is active. Most of the time the cyst will burst within a month, however if it does not rupture and the pain continues the doctor may choose to surgically remove the cyst.
Overall, it has been determined that there is no serious threat to a woman’s health from the gathering of fluid released from functional cysts. The pain and discomfort usually subsides sometimes after the cyst ruptures, or at the very most when the cyst is surgically removed (if necessary).
Ovarian cyst rupture is not the only cause behind pelvic fluid, though. Ascites can cause a similar pain and occur both in men and women. Ascites is the term used to describe fluid that can build up in the peritoneal cavity (the space between the membranes responsible for separating the abdominal wall and the abdominal cavity). This “sac” produces about 50 mg of fluid every day which helps to prevent inflammation of the organs. If this fluid is not properly secreted, it can build in the abdominal cavity and lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, a swollen abdomen, an overall heavy feeling around the midsection, weight loss, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases patients have reported swollen and bruised legs.
The most common cause behind ascites is cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease most often linked to alcoholism and Hepatitis B and C. Ascites is a very common complication resulting from cirrhosis and often means the patient has a higher chance of developing an infection. The treatment of ascites depends on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, the condition will usually be treated through outpatient means. Measures will be taken to prevent the problem from worsening as well as relieving the pain caused by ascites. In severe cases, the patient will be hospitalized and the excess fluid will be removed via needle (paracentesis). Patients are often given diuretics (medications that encourage urination as a means to rid the body of excess water) and are instructed to reduce their salt intake. In the event that the ascites recur due to liver damage, the patient may become a candidate for a liver transplant.
If you believe you may be suffering the symptoms of cysts or ascites, please schedule an appointment with your doctor for immediate investigation of the issue.