Women’s body goes through a lot of changes during the course of their reproductive lifetime, and you can be sure that gynecologic health issues will arise every now and then.
There is no doubt that the best place to get answers or information about your health is always your doctor, but here is information on a few of the most common concerns that women have regarding their gynecologic health.
Common Gynecological Problems, Signs, And Treatments
Vaginal Bleeding And Discharge
This can be a normal part of your menstrual cycle preceding menopause. However, if you notice anything different or unusual, it will be in your own best interest to consult your physician before attempting to treat the problem yourself.
Vaginal bleeding symptoms may result from mild infections that are easy to treat and manage. However, if they are not treated properly, they can lead to more serious conditions, like infertility or kidney damage.
Vaginal bleeding or discharge symptoms may also be a sign of more serious problems, like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and cancers of the reproductive tract.
Gynecological symptoms may resemble other medical conditions or urological problems, and you should consult your physician if you have any of the following symptoms:
- a burning sensation during urination
- bleeding between periods
- frequent and urgent need to urinate,
- abnormal vaginal bleeding (during or after intercourse)
- pain or pressure in your pelvis
- itching, burning, swelling, redness, or soreness in the vaginal area
- sores or lumps in the genital area
- vaginal discharge of an unusual color or an unusual odor
- increased discharges from the vagina
- Menstrual periods lasting longer than 7 days
- pain during intercourse
Detecting symptoms early and seeing a physician immediately, increases the likelihood of successful treatment.
Overwhelmingly, bleeding problems are caused by an imbalance in the hormones that control the menstrual cycle and in medical terms, are referred to as “dysfunctional uterine bleeding.”
When vaginal bleeding is not related to the menstrual cycle, it is of increased concern, especially, when it occurs in childhood before menstruation has begun, during pregnancy, and after menopause.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding may be more likely associated with the following:
In pre-pubertal girls:
- Sexual abuse
- A blood clotting problem
- Early puberty or
- Severe vaginal irritation
In a woman of reproductive age:
- Hormone imbalance
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Molar pregnancy
- A pregnancy where the placenta lies low or over the cervix
- Uterine fibroids
- Certain kinds of cysts and tumors
- Birth control pills
- Intrauterine devices, IUDs
In post-menopausal women:
- Effects of hormone replacement therapy
- Certain cysts and tumors
- Atrophic vaginitis
- Weakened pelvic floor muscles
Vaginal yeast infections are a common cause of vaginal irritation, and about three-quarter of women will experience at least one yeast infection during their lifetime.
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the yeast cells that normally live in the vagina, and pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes and the use of oral contraceptives or antibiotics are some factors that are commonly associated with yeast infections.
Other factors include:
- Perfumed feminine hygiene sprays,
- topical antimicrobial agents and
- Tight, poorly ventilated clothing and underwear.
Luckily, most yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription anti-fungal medications.
Uterine fibroids are nodules of smooth muscle and tissue that form within the uterine wall. Uterine fibroids are not cancer-related, but they can cause excessive or painful bleeding during menstruation, frequent urination or infertility.
Hysterectomy was the only treatment previously known, but doctors have found that fibroids may not require any intervention beyond over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, or prescription drugs.
The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. If a woman is not pregnant, this tissue builds up and is shed each month during menstrual flow at the end of each cycle.
In endometriosis, however, a tissue that looks and acts like the endometrial tissue is found outside the uterus (usually inside the abdominal cavity).
This misplaced endometrial tissue acts like it would if it was inside the uterus, and that is the problem. At the end of every cycle, when the uterus shed its endometrial lining, an endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus will break apart and bleed. But, unlike menstrual fluid from the uterus, blood from the misplaced tissue has no place to go.
Then tissues surrounding the area of endometriosis may become inflamed or swollen, and the inflammation may produce scar tissue around the area of endometriosis.
This abnormal tissue may develop into “lesions,” “implants,” “patches,” “nodules,” or “growths”.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is a pain, especially excessive menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) which may be felt in the abdomen or lower back. There is also pain during or after sexual activity (dyspareunia).
Endometrial patches may be tender to touch and intestinal pain may also result from endometrial patches on the walls of the colon or intestine. Infertility may subsequently occur (in about 30-40% of women with endometriosis).
Unsuspected or mild endometriosis is a common finding among infertile women and how this type of endometriosis affects fertility is still not clear, but compared to the general population, pregnancy rates for those who suffer endometriosis remain lower.
The cause of endometriosis is still unknown, but a theory suggests that endometriosis may be a genetic process where certain families may have predisposing factors to endometriosis. In the general view, endometriosis is seen as the tissue development process gone wrong.
Treatment for endometriosis has varied over the years, but doctors now agree that if the symptoms are mild, no further treatment other than medication for pain may be needed.
Treatment plans are developed based on symptoms and desires for pregnancy. This means that younger patients with mild endometriosis, who wish to become pregnant, are advised to have a trial period of unprotected intercourse for 6 months to 1 year. If pregnancy does not occur within that time frame, then further treatments are administered.
For patients not seeking a pregnancy, a trial of hormone suppression treatment may be administered, while surgical treatment to remove the endometrial implants without risking damage to healthy surrounding tissue may also be considered.