|Updated: 4/11/2007 4:50 pm
||Published: 4/11/2007 4:50 pm
Prolapse (PRO-laps) is the sagging or protrusion of an organ from its normal position. Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus drops down into the vagina. This is caused by weakening of muscles and ligaments that hold the uterus in place, due to repeated childbirth, obesity, hormonal changes, or simply the aging process. In mild cases, there are no symptoms; typically, no surgery is needed. In moderate cases, the condition may result in lower back and pelvic pain. When severe, the uterus actually protrudes from the vagina. Treatment options include a support device called a pessary (PESS-uh-ree), or various surgical procedures. The pessary is a rubber disk that's placed in the upper vagina. While not a permanent cure, the pessary can relieve symptoms by pushing the uterus back up to its regular position. Pessaries come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so a woman can be properly fitted. The device must be removed and cleaned about once a month. Surgical techniques can also correct the problem, such as uterine suspension, where support ligaments are strengthened, or a hysterectomy, where the uterus is entirely removed. The vagina itself can also prolapse, even several years after a hysterectomy. This problem can be corrected by surgically attaching the upper vagina to a support ligament in the pelvis. For more information on a prolapsed uterus or vagina, consult a health care specialist.