The 4 Most Embarrassing Problems “Down There”
Rashes, itches and other stuff you’d rather not think about
We’re not supposed to be ashamed of our bodies, right? But some conditions can make any girl blush. Don’t let your embarrassment stop you from talking to the doctor, though: Ignoring these health issues can cause you anything from needless pain to serious sickness.
We’ve all got some vaginal discharge—a clear or milky white fluid with no smell. Any other kind of discharge usually means vaginitis–a vaginal infection or inflammation. The three major types of vaginitis and their symptoms are Candida (a thick cottage-cheesy discharge); bacterial vaginosis (grayish, fishy-smelling fluid); and trichomonaiasis (yellow-green discharge). You’ll probably also see a rash, notice that you’re itching, have a burning sensation when you’re urinating and feel discomfort during sex.
Got any of these symptoms? See a gyno right away. Ignoring them could cause illnesses, including pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility. And don’t try to treat yourself before you see the doctor. That could mask the symptoms. It’s better to have an expert make the diagnosis and give you the right treatment for your condition. (As we’re sure you know, you can get over-the-counter treatments for a yeast infection, and if your doctor has already treated you for that, she’ll probably tell you to use them as needed.)
Another reason to make an appointment as soon as you can: Vaginal discharges can also be caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Prevention: After going to the bathroom, wipe from front to back to avoid the spread of bacteria. Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes to prevent irritation. Avoid douching. Change out of wet clothing, including bathing suits or gym gear, as soon as possible. If you have several sex partners, or if you’re stressed about your partner’s sexual health, make sure that tests for STDs are part of your annual checkup.
Vaginal prolapse (also known as pelvic organ prolapse)
Unless you’re a medical student, you probably haven’t thought too much about how some internal parts of your body physically support others. But when that support disappears, the results can be disastrous. That’s what happens with vaginal prolapse (pelvic organ prolapse). The pelvic organs – the rectum, uterus and bladder – literally start dropping down, or prolapsing, toward the vagina. In the most severe cases, the organs can drop out of the vaginal opening and protrude outside the body. Sometimes even the vagina itself can prolapse.
Pelvic organ prolapse might seem extreme, but there’s a pretty simple explanation: It happens when the organs’ support system (i.e. the muscles and connective tissue that keep everything in place) weaken or break. At risk: Women who have had multiple childbirths or have undergone a hysterectomy; the removal of the uterus in that procedure means there’s less support for the vagina. But obesity or even a severe chronic cough can also be blamed.
Symptoms of less extreme cases include pelvic pressure, uncomfortable intercourse, bleeding and difficulty in urinating or defecating.
Prevention/Treatment: Except in the most serious cases, simple changes can help. Experts suggest eating high-fiber foods to prevent constipation; doing Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles; and maintaining a normal body weight in order to avoid putting pressure on organs. Nonsurgical choices include a pessary–a rubber or plastic device that’s put into the vagina to support weakened muscles. Surgery can also help—the organs can be supported by surgical mesh, or the doctor can strengthen the weakened areas.