When to See a Specialist: Navigating Colorectal and Pelvic Floor Problems

Our digestive and pelvic floor systems play a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. However, experiencing discomfort or irregularities in these areas can be embarrassing and lead to a reluctance to seek professional help. Knowing when to see a specialist, whether a colorectal surgeon or pelvic floor specialist, is key to addressing underlying colorectal and pelvic floor problems – and supporting optimal comfort and health.

This article will shed light on the signs and symptoms that warrant a consultation with these specialists, empowering you to make informed decisions about your healthcare.

Colorectal Surgeons

Colorectal surgeons are specialised doctors who diagnose and treat conditions affecting the colon, rectum, and anus. These conditions can range from common issues like haemorrhoids to more complex diseases like colon cancer.

See a Colorectal Surgeon If You Experience

  • Changes in Bowel Habits: This includes persistent constipation (fewer than three bowel movements per week) or diarrhoea (loose, watery stools) lasting for more than a few days.
  • Rectal Bleeding: Blood in the stool can be a sign of haemorrhoids, but it can also indicate more serious conditions like ulcers, polyps, or even colon cancer.
  • Unexplained Abdominal Pain: Persistent or severe abdominal pain, especially in the lower left quadrant, could be a sign of diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or even an obstruction in the colon.
  • Change in Stool: A sudden narrowing of your stools or difficulty passing stool can indicate a blockage in the colon.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: This can be a symptom of various conditions, including colon cancer.
  • Rectal Mass: If you feel a lump in your rectum, it’s important to see a doctor to determine the cause.
  • Faecal Incontinence: The inability to control your bowels can be a sign of weakened pelvic floor muscles or nerve damage.
  • Family History of Colorectal Cancer: If you have a close relative (parent, sibling, or child) diagnosed with colon cancer, your risk is higher, and you may need to start screening earlier.

Pelvic Floor Specialists

Pelvic floor specialists are healthcare professionals who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the pelvic floor muscles and organs. These muscles support the bladder, bowel, and uterus, and when weakened, can lead to a variety of problems.

See a Pelvic Floor Specialist If You Experience

  • Urinary Incontinence: Leaking urine involuntarily, whether with coughing, laughing, or exercise, can be a sign of pelvic floor weakness.
  • Faecal Incontinence: Difficulty controlling bowel movements can also be related to pelvic floor prblems.
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP): This occurs when the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, or rectum) sag down due to weakened muscles. Symptoms may include a feeling of heaviness in the pelvis, bulging in the vagina, or difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
  • Urinary Frequency or Urgency: A frequent need to urinate, even at night, or the constant urge to urinate despite having little urine can be signs of a pelvic floor issue.
  • Painful Intercourse: Pain during sex can be caused by various factors, including pelvic floor muscle tightness or pelvic floor dysfunction.
  • Pelvic Pain: Chronic pelvic pain and postpartum pelvic pain, not related to menstruation or ovulation, could indicate pelvic floor muscle tension, endometriosis, or other conditions.

When to See a Specialist: A Collaborative Approach

Sometimes, symptoms may overlap between colorectal and pelvic floor issues. For example, faecal incontinence can be caused by both weakened pelvic floor muscles and rectal problems. In such cases, a collaborative approach involving both a colorectal surgeon and a pelvic floor specialist may be necessary for optimal diagnosis and treatment.

Here are some additional factors to consider when deciding to see a specialist:

  • Severity of Symptoms: If your symptoms are mild and occasional, you may want to start by discussing them with your primary care physician. However, if your symptoms are severe, persistent, or are significantly impacting your quality of life, a specialist consultation is recommended.
  • Impact on Daily Life: If your symptoms are causing you embarrassment, anxiety, or interfering with your daily activities, a specialist can help you find solutions to improve your well-being.
  • Previous Medical History: Certain medical conditions or prior surgeries may increase your risk of developing colorectal or pelvic floor problems. Discussing your medical history with your doctor can help them determine if a specialist referral is necessary.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Unbearable

Many people hesitate to seek professional help for colorectal and pelvic floor issues due to embarrassment or fear. However, early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve outcomes and prevent complications. Remember, these specialists are trained to address these issues openly and compassionately. Taking charge of your health and seeking professional guidance is the first step towards a better quality of life.

Additional Tips for a Smooth Consultation:

  • Prepare a List of Your Symptoms: This includes the frequency, duration, and severity of your symptoms.
  • Write Down Any Questions You Have: Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor anything that concerns you.
  • Gather Your Medical Records: If you have any relevant medical records, X-rays, or test results, bring them to your appointment.
  • Be Honest and Open About Your Lifestyle: This includes information about your diet, exercise habits, and any medications you are taking.
  • Be Comfortable Discussing Sensitive Topics: Remember, the specialist is there to help you, and open communication is key to an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

By understanding the signs and symptoms that warrant a consultation with a colorectal surgeon or pelvic floor specialist, you can play an active role in managing your digestive and pelvic floor health. Don’t let fear or embarrassment prevent you from seeking the professional help you deserve. Remember, early intervention is crucial for achieving optimal outcomes and living a healthy, fulfilling life.

By taking an informed approach to your health and seeking professional guidance from a colorectal surgeon or pelvic floor specialist when necessary, you can navigate colorectal and pelvic floor problems with confidence and work towards a healthier, happier you.