According to gynecologist Dr. Christine O'Connor, Director of Well-Woman and Adolescent Care at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, it's common for women to visit her office with a range of vaginal complaints. She says that many of these complaints can easily be managed with a little know-how — you just have to know what you're dealing with first.
If you have a vaginal infection, you'll know it exists by the uncomfortable symptoms that accompany it. "I'd say that the most common complaints in my practice are rashes, irritation, abnormal discharge and abnormal odor," O'Connor said. Instead of existing as separate complaints, these symptoms can be lumped into a grouping for vaginal infection, since O'Connor explains that irritation, odor and discharge are most typically signs of yeast or bacterial infection.
Your type of infection will determine the ease of its remedy. "Yeast infections are normally very itchy, can cause external redness and have a thick cottage cheese discharge," O'Connor said. Bacterial infections, on the other hand, come with milder irritation and abnormal odor. You can treat your yeast infection with any number of over-the-counter remedies, but you'll need to see your doctor for a prescription if you suspect a bacterial infection.
Here's another delightful complaint. In case a vaginal infection isn't terrible enough, try getting them recurrently. "Most infections will cause a disruption in the natural flora and pH balance of the vagina," O'Connor explained. "Supplements and probiotics can help reduce the frequency of infections."
For women who are very sensitive to fluctuations in their pH balance, recurrent infections can ensue — and sometimes as a nightmarish pendulum from bacterial infections to yeast infections and back again.
According to O'Connor, it's also common for women to complain of vaginal pain and discomfort that is not caused by a vaginal infection. The source of this pain is not always as simple to identify as a bacterial or yeast infection. If vaginal pain doesn't quickly resolve on its own, you will likely need to go to your doctor to determine its source. It could be something as simple as pain during intercourse due to dryness, or it could signal something more serious like pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or an STI.
O'Connor suggested that you make note of the circumstances in which you feel vaginal pain before your appointment so that your doctor can find its cause more easily.
"A common complaint in older patients is dryness and discomfort from menopause," O'Connor said. Dryness can cause baseline vaginal pain, which is then amplified during sexual intercourse. If your dryness is causing pain during sex, you can try a silicon- or water-based lubricant to keep things slippery. But if your dryness is a constant sore spot, you can try a vaginal moisturizer. You only need to apply the moisturizer once every three days to relieve dryness.
"If you try an over-the-counter remedy with no relief, then you should talk to your medical professional to determine if there is a different problem you need to be evaluated for, or a different treatment to try," she said.
Of course, and new vaginal issue should be evaluated by a doctor. But there is something you can do keep things in check. Restore balance to your natural vaginal pH by using an at-home balancing product like RepHresh vaginal gel.
This post was brought to you by the makers of RepHresh™ and Replens™ brands.
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