Gynaecological conditions that are more common than you may realise

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As a vagina owner, you’ll know that no matter how many precautions you may take, gynaecological problems can pop up at any time! Think of it like an uninvited guest. So what can you do about it? Is there a way to prevent them? What are the most common gynaecological conditions? Let’s find out.

1. Endometriosis: 

Endometriosis is a chronic condition which affects the woman’s reproductive system. It happens when the endometrium (tissue which lines the lining of the uterus), begins to protrude outside of it, resulting in swelling, discomfort, and scarring. The endometrial tissue may extend itself to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, intestines, and other organs. According to statistics, 10% of the women across the globe suffer from endometriosis.

Symptoms: Pelvic discomfort, uncomfortable periods, excessive bleeding, uncomfortable sex, and infertility are all signs of endometriosis. 

Causes: While there is no definite cause found behind endometriosis, theories suggest that genetics, environmental factors, hormone imbalances and immune system dysfunction could contribute.

2. Vaginismus: 

Vaginismus is a phenomenon where the vaginal muscles uncontrollably tighten and spasm during attempted penetration, making vaginal penetration uncomfortable or impossible. Vaginismus is frequently accompanied by feelings of worry and shame, both of which can make the condition worse. Vaginismus treatment may include physical therapy, psychotherapy, and the use of vaginal dilators to progressively desensitise and relax the vaginal muscles. Additionally, for long term solutions, specialised clinics have started to offer Botox treatments for vaginismus as well. Many women have reported to overcome vaginismus and experience pain-free intercourse with this treatment and the right guidance.

Symptoms: Pelvic pain and discomfort especially during penetrative sex.

Causes: It’s unclear exactly what causes vaginismus, but it is thought to be brought on by stress, phobias, past traumas, or even some specific medical disorders.

3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): 

Women of reproductive age are frequently affected by a hormonal condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). With this condition, cysts can develop on the ovaries which can cause irregular menstrual periods, infertility, and other health issues. 

Currently, PCOS cannot be cured, however there are therapies to control the symptoms and lower the likelihood of problems. These include food and lifestyle adjustments, such as increased exercise, as well as prescription drugs that control the menstrual cycle, lower insulin resistance, and encourage ovulation.

Symptoms: Weight gain, acne, excessive hair growth, infertility, irregular period cycle and insulin resistance are some signs of PCOS.

Causes: Although the precise cause of PCOS is not fully understood, it is thought to be a result of a mix of hereditary and environmental factors. 

4. STDs: 

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are contracted through sexual contact with an infected individual. STDs come in a wide variety of forms, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and HIV. The transmission of STDs can occur during vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse as well as other types of sexual contact, such exchanging sex toys. STDs may increase the risk of some cancers if left untreated. Use of condoms and routine testing for STDs are the best ways to prevent the spread of STDs.

Symptoms: Although many STD sufferers may not exhibit any symptoms at all, some might experience discharge, blisters, or irritation in the vaginal region.

Causes: Sexual encounter with infected individual(s). 

5. Vaginal atrophy: 

Vaginal atrophy, also known as atrophic vaginitis, is a condition where the tissues of the vagina become thin, dry, and irritated as a result of a drop in oestrogen levels. It frequently occurs in women before and after menopause, although it can also happen during nursing or right after cancer treatment. The use of vaginal lubricants or moisturisers, hormone replacement therapy, and medications to improve vaginal thickness and suppleness are all possible treatments for vaginal atrophy. Frequent vaginal stimulation and sexual activity can also support vaginal health maintenance and prevent atrophy.

Symptoms: Vaginal dryness, itching, burning, painful intercourse are all signs of vaginal atrophy.

Causes: Decreased oestrogen levels during breastfeeding, menopause, medical treatments, smoking, lack of sexual activity.

6. Fibroids: 

Vaginal fibroids, sometimes called uterine fibroids or leiomyomas, are growths that occur within or close to the uterus. Although vaginal fibroids are often asymptomatic, if they become large enough, they can result in heavy menstrual flow, pelvic discomfort and urinary issues.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, fibroids may require surgical removal. In order to treat symptoms, hormone therapy or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may also be used.

Symptoms: Heavy menstrual flow, pelvic pain and discomfort, urinary problems.

Causes: The cause of vaginal fibroids is unknown, though, it is thought that a mix of hereditary and hormonal factors may be responsible.

Top tips on how to prevent gynaecological conditions 

While you may not be able to fully avert the risk of developing gynaecological problems over your lifetime, taking preventive measures can definitely help. Check out the following top tips to prevent these conditions:

  1. Practise safe sex:
    When engaging in sexual intercourse, it is recommended to use contraceptives like condoms to prevent the risk of contracting STDs.
  1. Post workout hygiene:
    Having an active lifestyle has many benefits, however, improper hygiene practices post-workout can be detrimental. To prevent bacterial infections (they love warm, damp places) it’s important to remove underwear and sweaty gym clothing as soon as possible after working out and to shower. 
  2. Balanced diet:
    A diet which contains a good variety of nutrients can provide proper nourishment, helping to prevent and manage the risk of diseases.
  3. Body weight maintenance:
    Body weight can be a factor in not only gynaecological issues but also multiple chronic illnesses like heart disease. Many women who have BMIs above the recommended range experience irregular period cycles and PCOS in some severe cases. It can also increase your risk of some conditions.
  4. Regular checkup and testing:
    While this tip may seem boring, the truth is that regular checkups and screenings (your smear test, for example), can help to detect any early signs of gynaecological problems.

Future-proofing your gynaecological health 

Gynaecological issues are quite common and most of the problems now have medical treatments, but they can have life-threatening consequences if left untreated or undiagnosed for a long period of time. By consulting a gynaecologist regularly you can feel confident that any issues will be found and treated early.

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