ITCHING to Know What’s Going On???

Hi Shawna,

A couple of days ago “down there” began to itch really bad and yesterday I started having thick, white stuff come out. What is going on? It really bothers me and it’s embarrassing.
Help!

-Anonymous

Hello!!!

Come see us at New Generation Health Center!!!  We can definitely check out what’s going on.  If you are not in the bay area,  check out: inSPOT .  Inspot can help you find a clinic in your area (they also have some other pretty cool apps on their site).  But let’s get back to your question.  I can’t tell you exactly what is going on with you without having you examined by a clinician,  but I can tell you about some of the common vaginal infections (many of which can cause these types of symptoms).  Again,  this is not a diagnosis.  I am not a clinician and clinicians wouldn’t be diagnosing you without seeing you in person anyhow.

Yeast Infection (candidiasis):

Yeast is a normal part of the vaginal environment.  All girls and women have yeast in their vagina.  However,  sometimes their bodies make too much yeast and that can cause a yeast infection.  There are many reasons why this overgrowth happens:  taking antibiotics,  wearing tight or non-breathable underwear,  or douching (douching is not a good idea for many reasons).  Women who have medical conditions like diabetes are also more likely to get yeast infections.

Common symptoms of a yeast infection include:

• Itching and irritation in the vagina
• Redness,  swelling,  or itching of the vagina or vulva (don’t remember what that is?  Check out my previous post on female anatomy.
• a thick,  white discharge that can look like cottage cheese and is usually doesn’t have a smell (sometimes it might smell like bread or yeast)
• pain or burning when urinating or during sex

Although yeast infections aren’t considered sexually transmitted infections,  they may be able to be spread from one sexual partner to the other.  This doesn’t happen very often.  If you have a yeast infection and your partner isn’t having any symptoms,  there is no reason for them to be treated.

Treatment:

There are over the counter treatments (creams and suppositories) but if you have never had a yeast infection before see a clinician.  Don’t treat yourself as your symptoms may be from something else.  There is also a pill that a clinician can prescribe which only needs to be taken once and it begins to work really quickly.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV):

Like yeast,  bacteria in the vagina is normal.  Most of it is “good” bacteria and helps keep the vaginal environment healthy.  BV happens when there’s an imbalance between the “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria in the vagina.  Meaning,  the small amount of “bad” bacteria grew to be more than the “good” bacteria.

Although the causes of BV aren’t exactly known,  it is known that certain things can make the infection more likely,  such as:

• douching
• new sex partners or many different sex partners (male or female)
• smoking cigarettes

What are the symptoms of BV?

• an abnormal white or gray vaginal discharge that’s thin, with a fishy smell that’s more noticeable during a girl’s period or after sex
• pain while peeing
• itching in and around the vagina

Treatment:

Treatment isn’t always necessary because your body often fixes the imbalance on its own.  Some women don’t have symptoms,  so choose not to take any treatment.  However, women with bothersome symptoms can get treatment with prescription antibiotics (pills, vaginal gel, or suppositories).  It’s important to talk to your clinician about any restrictions with your treatment (some have restrictions,  others don’t).

Okay,  that was another long post.  Don’t worry about remembering it all.  Just remember the following few things:

• Not all vaginal infections are related to sexual activity
• If you have any abnormal discharge or vaginal symptoms – see a clinician
• Most vaginal infections are easily treatable

That’s it till next week!!!!

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Reviewed by Grace Shih, MD

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