Common Ultrasound Exams for Women’s Health

Technician uses handheld ultrasound device
Most women are familiar with ultrasounds for supplemental breast cancer screenings and pregnancy imaging, but what are the other occasions when a physician might order an ultrasound exam for women? Learn more about the life-saving capabilities these ultrasound exams provide.

How Ultrasounds Work

Ultrasounds use a combination of sound waves and computer technology to create internal images that doctors and patients seek. Ultrasounds are often used as a preliminary method of imaging. This means that when doctors suspect a problem and think that it is an area that the ultrasound will be able to view, they will use this method first because ultrasounds aren’t invasive or have side effects. Ultrasounds examine the internal organs, tissues and blood flow throughout the body, determining the blood flow through the heart, imaging breast tissue and guiding biopsy needles.

Almost any part of the body can undergo an ultrasound exam which makes it a faithful go-to for doctors.

These Are the Ultrasound Exams Many Women Receive

BREAST CARE: Ultrasound of the breast may be used for women who are at high risk for breast cancer or women who are pregnant and should not be exposed to x-rays used in a mammogram. Ultrasound of the breast can also be used to screen women who have dense breast tissue, meaning there are a lot of ducts, glands, fibrous tissue and less fat making it harder to find cancers with a mammogram.

HEART HEALTH: A major benefit that ultrasounds can provide for women is helping women determine their possibility of heart attack or stroke. Both of these conditions occur when the blood flow to the brain or heart is blocked. By using ultrasound technology, doctors can hear problems like weak valves, blockages, and murmurs. Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world and the highest killer of women around the world. The best way to combat this statistic, besides better health, diet, and exercise, is to have regularly scheduled check-ups with your primary care physician. As you get older, your doctor will likely recommend several kinds of tests to determine your cardiac health, so don’t forget to sign up for a cardiac ultrasound. The ability to see movement via ultrasound is particularly beneficial for those women concerned with their cardiac health as the movement of blood will be the biggest indicator of that problem.

PELVIC: In women, a pelvic ultrasound is most often performed to evaluate these parts of the body:

  • uterus
  • cervix
  • ovaries
  • bladder

Ultrasound examinations can help diagnose symptoms experienced by women such as:

  • pelvic pain
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • other menstrual problems

Ultrasound exams also help identify:

  • palpable masses such as ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids
  • ovarian or uterine cancers

PREGNANCY: Ultrasounds are the best form of medical imaging for expectant mothers because ultrasounds are non-invasive and do not have the concern of radiation. Mothers can see their baby’s outline, hear their heartbeat and determine their child’s health.

TRANSVAGINAL: These exams go across or through the vagina (the genital canal in the female, extending from the uterus to the vulva).
A transvaginal ultrasound is usually performed to view the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) and the ovaries. Transvaginal ultrasound also evaluates the myometrium (muscular walls of the uterus). Sonohysterography allows for a more in-depth investigation of the uterine cavity. These exams are typically performed to detect:

  • uterine anomalies
  • uterine scars
  • endometrial polyps
  • fibroids
  • cancer, especially in patients with abnormal uterine bleeding

Learn More About Ultrasound Exams

The Dangers of Office Work on Your Physical Health

For most people, the 9-5 office atmosphere is typical. In the US, too much time is spent in a sitting position, whether it be at the office, in traffic or at home and the effects of this kind of sedentary living are becoming  more and more pronounced as seen through various health problems.

After the advent of the internet, the ways that people work, learn and communicate changed dramatically. Now the benefits of the internet are vast and far-reaching but there are some negative results that need to be discussed. The human body is a complex machine that is made to move and function in certain ways. For many people that work in an office setting, the neck becomes a problem area quickly. When sitting a desk for 7 or more hours a day, the neck is pushed forward and the shoulders often slump due to poor posture. This causes strain in the neck and pain in the shoulders.

A common occurrence for those working in office setting for extended periods of time is known as “Dowager’s Neck.” Dowager’s Neck is a condition in which fat builds up behind the neck and above the shoulders, giving people the appearance of a “hunchback” or “buffalo back.” Usually this condition was only seen in older generations with severe osteoporosis but now more and more cases are appearing in younger patients and even children largely due to the usage of computers and what is known as “forward head position.” When the head is slumped forward while working on computers or through extreme cellphone usage, the neck and upper back become weakened and then conform to that position. While the hump associated with Dowager’s Neck is not painful itself, it causes extreme strain and tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back.

Other problems that come with an office work environment are conditions like heart disease and obesity. Those working in office settings don’t get much movement throughout the day and are more likely to choose quick and easy processed foods as their lunch choice. As such, the lack of exercise can easily become extra pounds. Many office workers eat their lunches at their desks or grab nearby food which doesn’t help the predominant lack of physical movement. Heart disease is another major concern for long-term office workers. Thanks in part to the lack of daily movement, the sitting position causes blood flow to be slowed and for the internal organs to be pushed upward causing problems like painful digestion and hernias.

Long-time office workers are much more likely to develop increased risk of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, stroke and vision problems as well. Prolonged periods of sitting have been shown to “disrupt metabolic function resulting in increased plasma triglyceride levels (bad cholesterol) and decreased levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol). As if this news wasn’t alarming enough, some studies have found that “sitting for 11 or more hours per day increased risk of death by 40 percent, regardless of other activity levels.”

Vision and ligament problems are other common complaints of those that work in offices. Because of the constant motion of the hands, finger and wrists to use the computer and mouse, carpal tunnel in the wrist combined with shoulder and hand pain become common occurrences. Vision problems, although temporary, caused by overexposure to artificial light can cause the eyes to strain leading to migraines and headaches.

Luckily for those working in offices, there are a variety of solutions to try before these minor aches and pains become bigger problems.  To begin, if you work in an office, having a daily exercise plan can help curtail the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Even better, try to move around your office as much as possible. Every hour take a few minutes to stretch and move around, as this gets the blood flowing throughout the body and can help elevate mood and productivity.  See if you can incorporate a standing desk in your office as well.

Cardiovascular health should one of the biggest concerns of any office worker. Having a nutritious diet and a regular exercise routine is always consistent with great heart health but if you are over the age of 50, do not regularly exercise and don’t eat the healthiest of food, then you could be a contender for heart disease and cardiovascular problems. Having regular physicals and check-ups with your primary care physician is another easy way to stay on top of your health. Having appropriate tests like MRI, CT, ultrasound and xrays can help you determine where you might need improvement.

If you have more questions about MRIs or about other imaging exams that can improve your day-to-day health, contact Doctors Imaging in Metairie via 504-883-8111 or online form.