Damaged Fallopian Tubes
One of the most common fertility issues facing women is damaged or blocked fallopian tubes. Blocked or damaged tubes can prevent conception by stopping the sperm's ability to reach the egg and fertilize it.
What is a Fallopian Tube?
Every woman has two thin tubes that come out of either side of the uterus. Each tube is attached to an ovary. These are the fallopian tubes. When the ovary releases an egg, the egg travels down a fallopian tube towards the uterus. Conception occurs in the fallopian tube so it's important for sperm to be able to get through the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg.
The fertilized egg travels down towards the uterus where it implants and grows into an embryo and then a fetus. Occasionally a fertilized egg tries to implant itself in the fallopian tubes. This is called an ectopic pregnancy. As the fertilized egg grows into an embryo it can rupture the tube and require surgery to save the woman's life.
An obstruction caused by damage or a block will prevent the egg from traveling down the tube and becoming fertilized. When the obstruction is caused by a block this is known as tubal factor infertility. This type of infertility is thought to affect approximately 40 percent of infertile women.
Symptoms of Blocked or Damaged Tubes
There are rarely symptoms associated with blocked or damaged fallopian tubes. A woman only finds out about the problem once she tries to get pregnant. Hydrosalpinx, a specific kind of blocked fallopian tube, may cause unusual vaginal discharge or pain in the lower abdomen. Hydrosalpinx is the name of a blockage caused by the fallopian tube filling with liquid and dilating. This dilation can cause pain.
If there are fertility concerns, a specialized x-ray called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) may be ordered to examine the potential of blocked or damaged tubes. A tiny tube is first used to place dye through the cervix. If the tubes are unblocked, the die will go through the tubes, ovaries and into the pelvic area. A lack of spreading of the dye can indicate a blocked or damaged fallopian tube.
Causes of Blocked or Damaged Tubes
A history of sexually transmitted disease can cause tube blockage or damage. Chlamydia or gonorrhea is known for causing this problem. The risk of tube damage increases if the infection travels throughout the pelvis in what's called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Even if the PID has been treated, the damage can already be there. A previous ectopic pregnancy can also cause a blockage. Other potential causes include endometriosis, uterine infection caused by miscarriage or abortion or a genetic abnormality. A rupture appendix can cause damage to the fallopian tubes as can abdominal surgery.