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Sudden Stabbing Pain in Female Pelvic Area

Published on Oct 31, 2022 and last reviewed on Nov 25, 2022   -  5 min read


Stabbing pelvic pain may indicate serious pelvic conditions. This article explains the different causes, symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments of pelvic pain.

What Is Pelvic Pain?

The pain in the area below the belly button and above the legs is known as pelvic pain, and it is often referred to as a dull ache, pain, or pressure located in the abdomen below the navel. If the pain is sudden and unexpected, it is called acute pelvic pain, and if the pain is present for the long term, it is called chronic pain. Pelvic pain can be a sign of problems with the reproductive organs like the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina in a woman's pelvic area. It can also include other symptoms like lower back pain or vaginal bleeding.

What Are the Symptoms Associated With Pelvic Pain?

Many symptoms are related to pelvic pain.

Some of these symptoms include:

What Are the Common Causes of Acute Pelvic Pain in Women?

The sudden and unexpected onset of pelvic pain is called acute pelvic pain. This may be due to the following conditions:

Ovarian Cysts -

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets that can develop on the surface of the ovaries on inside the ovaries. A follicular cyst occurs when the follicle does not break or release its egg but continues to grow. The fluid that accumulates inside the follicle after the follicles release the egg is called a corpus luteum cyst. Ovarian cysts are more common and can appear at any age.

The main symptom of ovarian cysts is sharp pains in the lower portion of the abdomen. Other symptoms include bloating, fullness or heaviness in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and pain during intercourse. The ovarian cyst can be prevented with regular pelvic examination and be altered with any changes in the monthly cycle.

Appendicitis -

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the small finger-shaped organ called the appendix that projects from the lower right side of the abdomen. If there is blockage or infection in the appendix's lining, the bacteria multiply rapidly, causing the appendix to become swollen, inflamed, and filled with pus. If not treated promptly, the appendix can rupture. Appendicitis develops between the ages of 15 to 30. The symptoms include sudden stabbing pain in the lower right portion of the abdomen. It can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal bloating, diarrhea, and a low-grade fever. The treatment involves the surgical removal of an infected appendix.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease -

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the female reproductive system that can affect the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. It often occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria move from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries which are acquired during unprotected sex. The main symptom of PID is mild to severe pain in the lower region of the abdomen. Other symptoms of PID include upper abdominal pain, vaginal discharge, fever, fatigue, irregular bleeding, or painful sex or urination. It can be prevented by safe sex. In the initial stage, antibiotic treatment will be helpful; it can cause life-threatening conditions like sepsis if left untreated.

Peritonitis -

Inflammation of the peritoneum (the thin layer of tissue on the abdomen's inner wall) is called peritonitis. It usually occurs due to a bacterial or fungal infection. There are two types of peritonitis.

  • Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis - It is caused due to complications of liver disease, such as cirrhosis.

  • Secondary Peritonitis - It is caused due to perforations in the abdomen or as a complication of other medical conditions.

Pericoronitis symptoms include abdominal pain or tenderness, abdominal distention, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, low urine output, fever, and chills. The most common treatments for peritonitis are antibiotics and pain medications. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove infected tissues.

Urinary Tract Infections -

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that affect the urinary tract, including the kidney, urethra, bladder, and ureters. Bacteria commonly cause urinary tract infections, but sometimes fungi and viruses can also be the cause. If UTI affects the kidney, serious consequences can occur. The symptoms include stabbing, sharp or cramping pains in the lower region of the pelvis, a burning sensation while urinating, persistent urge to urinate, the urine appearing cloudy, red, or brown colored, and a strong smell of urine. Antibiotics are the treatment choice during the initial stage; if left untreated, they can cause a life-threatening condition called urosepsis.

Endometriosis -

Endometriosis occurs when endometrial-like tissue (the inner lining of the uterus) grows outside of the uterine cavity. Factors such as abnormal menstrual cycles, low body mass, and reproductive tract disorders can increase endometriosis risk. The symptoms include mild abdominal aches, stabbing pains in the pelvis, back, and legs, excessive bleeding, and infertility. Treatment for endometriosis includes relieving the pain using pain medication and, in cases with infertility, correcting the underlying issues and hormonal therapy to fix endometriosis.

Pelvic Abscess -

Abscesses are painful, pus-filled pouches of inflamed tissue. The causes of a pelvic abscess include any infection of the lower genital tract, operative procedures (hysterectomy, caesarian sections, laparotomies, and induced abortion), cancers of pelvic organs, Crohn's disease complications, trauma to the genital tract, and diverticulitis. In addition, pelvic abscesses can cause stabbing pain within the pelvic region if they grow large and press against the sensitive nerves in the abdominal areas. Other symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and general malaise. Treatment should be done as early as possible because rupture of the abscess can be life-threatening. Usually, surgery is done to drain the abscess, followed by antibiotics.

Kidney Stone -

Kidney stones or calculi are a solid mass of crystals resulting from mineral build-up in urine. If the stones are large, they get stuck in the urinary tract and cause sharp or stabbing pains on both sides of the lower back. Other symptoms include difficulty urinating, foul-smelling urine, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Lithotripsy, ureteroscopy, and tunnel surgery are used to remove kidney stones.

How Is Pelvic Pain Diagnosed?

Different types of tests are required to identify the possible causes of pelvic pain,

1) Medical History -

The physician asks questions about when the pain occurs, what relieves it, what triggers it, and the duration of the pain. The physician takes family history to know if fibroids, cancer, or other conditions run in the family. They may also ask about their sexual partners to rule out sexually transmitted infections.

2) Physical Examination -

A pelvic exam allows your doctor to check for any abnormalities within the reproductive system and palpate the abdomen and lower back if those are the source of pain.

3) Lab Tests -

Few tests are done based on the patient's medical history and pelvic or physical exam.

  • Colonoscopy - To check the bowel's abnormalities, growths, or obstructions.

  • Urinalysis - To check urinary tract infections and kidney problems.

  • Sigmoidoscopy - To check the lower part of the colon for bleeding or any other abnormalities.

  • Vaginal Swabs - To screen for any infections.

4) Imaging -

Ultrasound and computer tomography (CT) of the abdomen and pelvis provides good images of any abnormalities or growth in the pelvic area.

Conclusion -

Sharp, stabbing pain in the pelvic area can be caused by various underlying causes and indicate a severe condition requiring immediate medical attention. Diagnosing the source of pelvic pain and proper treatment is essential to avoid serious complications.

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Last reviewed at:
25 Nov 2022  -  5 min read




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