Pelvic Symptoms Often Misdiagnosed by Medical Professionals
After a long day at work many people, including myself, turn to the television for an escape. Tonight, my show of choice was Dr. Phil, a classic. Surprisingly my evening escape would bring up a topic that seemed all too familiar to me in the workplace; “Medical Gaslighting”. Tonight's panel consisted of a group of women, many suffering from chronic illnesses. These women brought stories, ones that I’ve personally heard many times throughout my career as a nurse both in the hospital setting and at CVM. The one thing they all had in common tonight was that their symptoms and stories that pointed towards chronic disease processes were taken far too lightly and, in some cases, even suggested as being “all in their head”.
While I cannot speak for all disease processes, I can speak for many of our patients that were ultimately diagnosed with May-Thurner Syndrome or Pelvic Congestion Syndrome. A significant portion of our female patients has had issues with chronic pelvic pain(lasting more than 6 months), excessively heavy, painful periods, and/or pelvic pain related to sexual activity with no underlying gynecological or evidence of sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately, many of them had been dissuaded from seeking proper medical treatment or had come to accept that these symptoms may have been somehow “all in their head”.
These women were often sent to other specialists (urologists, urogynecologists, pelvic floor physical therapists, pelvic pain specialists, etc.) only to leave frustrated with no “real answers”. Some patients had been placed on antianxiety medications and/or antipsychotic medications often being told that the symptoms are related to an underlying mental disorder. I have even had patients tell me that the symptoms could be related to underlying PTSD due to trauma that the patient may have blocked out and not remembered.
For many women, the best relief they can get comes from a possible diagnosis and affirmation that what they have been going through is not only real but common; In my 10+ years working in this field I’ve seen countless women brought to tears by this very moment.
Even if the roots of their symptoms go beyond May-Thurner Syndrome (MTS) and/or Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS), the opportunity for these women to be heard and given some possible routes for treatments can be truly life-changing.
I do not feel that all medical gaslighting is done intentionally, as it can be very difficult for healthcare professionals to have answers that accurately and quickly resolve their patients' problems; in some regards, it is commendable for healthcare professionals to admit when an issue is beyond their knowledge. However, this does not excuse acts of dismissal to the needs of the patient. Medicine is an ever-evolving field and as it does, we can hope for improvements on all fronts to help reduce the amount of medical gaslighting. Don’t let self-doubt in the face of medical dismissal hinder your lived experience.
If you or a loved one feel that you have been a victim of medical gaslighting and have experienced symptoms of May-Thurner Syndrome or Pelvic Congestion Syndrome and have not found any answers, please contact us for further information.