Diseases and Disorders of the female reproductive system

Biology Educational Videos

Last Updated on November 26, 2020 by Sagar Aryal

Introduction

Different kinds of diseases and disorders are associated with the female reproductive system. These kinds of diseases might arise either due to some infection or some abnormalities within the organs. The abnormal release of hormones is also often associated with female reproductive system diseases as well as female infertility. In addition to these causes, sometimes the diseases in other organs might also cause different disorders in the female reproductive system. Throughout reproductive life, these kinds of disorders are often characterized by altered menstruation, pelvic pain, and even infertility.

Diseases and Disorders of the female reproductive system

The common diseases and disorders associated with the female reproductive system are explained with respect to their organs as follows:

Gynecologic Cancer

Gynecologic cancer refers to cancer that originates at any part of the female reproductive system. This group of cancer is widespread among women throughout the world. It consists of five different types of cancer that occur in various organs within the system. Each of these cancers has its distinct signs and symptoms.

A. Cervical Cancer

  • This type of cancer begins at the deepest layer of the cervical epithelium at the junction between stratified epithelium and the secretory epithelium.
  • Cancer might spread locally and reach other organs like the vagina, uterine bodies, and ovaries. Metastates appear during the later stages.

B. Vaginal Cancer

  • Vaginal cancer is rare cancer that is observed in the vagina, a muscular canal connecting the uterus to other organs.
  • Usually, vaginal cancer originating in the vagina is rare, but cancers from other organs might spread to the vagina and cause vaginal cancer.

C. Vulvar Cancer

  • Cancer that appears in the vulva is vulvar cancer. It often originates from the squamous cells in the vulva and affects the vagina lips.
  • It is characterized by lumps and ulcers around the vulva with occasional bleeding and itching.

D. Uterine Cancer

  • Uterine cancer, also termed endometrial carcinoma, is observed in women who have never been pregnant of the age between 60-70years.
  • It is believed that it is triggered by the secretion of a high amount of estrogen, and women who are obese, hypertensive, and diabetic are often at high risk as they have high estrogen in their blood.
  • As the endometrium lacks lymphatics, the chance of spread is quite low. Invasion of the uterus often leads to uremia and hydronephrosis, which become the cause of death.

E. Ovarian Cancer

  • Ovarian tumors occurring between 20-30years are mostly benign, but the tumors forming between 45-60 years are found to be malignant.
  • There are three different types of tumors, depending on the cells involved.
  • Epithelial cell tumors are often malignant tumors originating from the epithelial cells in the ovary. Large tumors might cause discomfort in the abdominal cavity and gastrointestinal disturbances. These are associated with menstrual cycles and are often reduced during pregnancy or consumption of oral contraceptives.
  • Germ cell ovarian tumors are observed in children and young women and are mostly harmless. These form cysts containing different types of tissue.
  • Hormone-secreting cell tumors are the tumors originating from the sex-cord stroma cells, which are the precursors of the germ cells. Some of these tumors secrete estrogen, which might lead to other disorders like endometrial carcinoma, while some might secrete androgens causing the development of male sex characteristics.

The major risk factors associated with these cancers are age, family history, obesity, multiple sexual partners, and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). Contrary to this, however, women not associated with these risk factors are also found to be suffering from these cancers.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

  • PID is the inflammation of organs present in the pelvic region. It begins as vulvovaginitis and then spreads to other organs like the cervix and vagina.
  • This disease occurs due to the presence of microbes in the vagina after surgery or during pregnancy which then spreads upwards to other organs.
  • The inflammation is characterized by infertility due to obstruction of oviduct and bacteremia, which results in meningitis or arthritis.

Vulvar Disorder

  • Atrophic dystrophy is the thinning of the lining of the vulva which occurs after menopause in women. This happens as a result of estrogen withdrawal. This disorder predisposes women to infections and other diseases.
  • Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia is another disorder of the vulva, which is often associated with human papillomavirus. In most cases, this disorder is benign, but some cases might lead to carcinoma.

Imperforate hymen

  • This disorder might not be noticed until the onset of menstruation. If a hymen is imperforate, it covers the vagina and thus obstructs the process of menstruation. Later, blood might be collected in the uterine tubes and the uterus, which might lead to infertility.

Disorder of the Uterus

Acute Endometritis

  • If any membrane or placenta remains in the uterus after parturition or abortion, it might lead to infection, which results in acute endometritis.
  • The infection is non-specific and might be caused by a variety of organisms like Streptococci, Staphylococci, and Pseudomonas.
  • When the particle is removed, the infection might subside. However, there is a possibility of the infection spreading to other parts and ultimately leading to infertility.
  • Occasionally, an acute infection might lead to chronic endometritis which might lead to uterine cancer.

Endometriosis

  • Endometriosis occurs due to the growth of the uterine endometrium in other organs like ovaries and the uterine duct.
  • It is responsive to the fluctuation of sex hormones during the menstrual cycles, which might cause bleeding in the lower abdomen and the formation of chocolate-like cysts in the ovaries.
  • It causes constant pain in the lower abdomen and fibrous tissue formation within the ovaries, which might lead to pelvic inflammation and infertility.

Adenomyosis

  • In this case, the endometrium might grow into the myometrium which causes enlargement of the uterus.
  • This results in the formation of lesions and causes excessive irregular bleeding in women aged 40-50 years.

Leiomyoma

  • Leiomyoma refers to the multiple but benign tumors that are formed in the myometrium. They are balls of smooth muscle that are encapsulated by muscle fibers which might lead to necrosis and calcification if large in size.
  • These occur during the reproductive phase and might be hormone-related enlarging during pregnancy or during the consumption of oral contraceptives.
  • Large tumors might cause pelvic discomfort, frequency of micturition, and irregular bleeding, leading to reduced fertility.

Disorders of the uterine tube

Acute salpingitis

  • Salpingitis is the infection of uterine tubes, often caused due to the spread of infection from the uterus and the peritoneal cavity.
  • This might lead to obstruction of uterine tubes resulting in infertility along with pain in the abdomen.

Ectopic pregnancy

  • This occurs as a result of the implantation of the egg in the uterine tubes. When the fetus develops, and the tubes rupture releasing the contents into the peritoneum, it causes acute inflammation (peritonitis) and severe intraperitoneal hemorrhage.

Disorder of the ovary

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

  • This is a hormonal imbalance when the amount of androgen is elevated, causing frequent or prolonged menstrual cycles.
  • The ovaries might form follicles filled with fluid and fail to release eggs regularly.
  • In the long run, it might cause weight gain and associated heart problems.

Ovarian cysts

  • Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled spaces in the ovaries which are mostly painless with usually no symptoms.
  • Occasionally, it might cause bloating and back pain but are mostly harmless.
  • However, if these cysts rupture or cause twisting of the ovary, it might cause severe pain.
  • These are formed during ovulation either from the follicles or the corpus luteum. Pelvic inflammatory disease and other disorders might also result in the formation of ovarian cysts.

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