Vaginal Problems That Affect Your Sex Life
Vaginal disorders ranging from chronic infections to vaginitis, fibroids, and stress incontinence can damage your sexual health and general well-being.
Treatment is painless and easy; most women simply insert at bedtime a
prescribed cream or an ovule (a soft suppository) -- generally soothing but
messy -- or they can take a prescription oral antifungal such as Diflucan.
You’ll avoid the mess, but relief might take a few days longer.
Atrophic vaginitis can develop if you’re breastfeeding or taking
progestin-only birth control pills; both may cause a dip in estrogen levels.
This condition feels like an infection with burning, itching, and pain, but
there’s no active infection. Treatments such as estrogen creams or a vaginal
estrogen ring (inserted by your doctor) can help.
Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection, can cause a
greenish-yellow frothy discharge, with some itching and burning. Women might
notice irritation with intercourse. Like BV, “trich” is easily treated with
oral or vaginal antibiotics.
If you think you have any of these, see your doctor. Loading up on
over-the-counter creams will only make the problem worse if you have a
different type of infection. And whatever you do, don’t douche. “When a woman
douches, she rinses out the bacteria in question but also [healthy] bacteria
that are responsible for normal secretions,” says Kellogg.
Imagine vaginal burning and pain so severe you can’t sit comfortably, wear
fitted clothing, or have intercourse. That’s the reality women with vulvodynia
face -- and there’s no quick fix. Some suffer for years before finding the
right treatment (or even any relief).
That’s why Phyllis Mate, executive director of the National Vulvodynia
Association, was incensed by a recent episode of ABC’s Private Practice, in
which Dr. Addison Montgomery (played by Kate Walsh) diagnosed and cured a
patient’s vulvodynia in a single episode. “While the producers deserve credit
for trying to depict the symptoms of vulvodynia, 13 million women in the real
world would painfully disagree with the show’s fairy-tale ending,” Mate
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes vulvodynia, but possible contributors
include injury to nerves in the vulva, hypersensitivity to Candida, and pelvic
floor muscle spasms. The most common form of vulvodynia is vulvar vestibulitis
syndrome (VVS), which affects the tiny glands that lie at the top and bottom of
the vaginal opening.
For years, patients have been treated with tricyclic antidepressants (to
block pain receptors in the vulva), topical estrogen creams and anesthetics
(such as lidocaine), anticonvulsants, and surgery. But newer, less invasive
treatments are working wonders. To curb pain and restore sexual function,
Kellogg treats some patients with Capsaicin cream, a specially compounded
ointment that contains the active ingredient in chili peppers. It might cause
discomfort on contact but can dramatically reduce symptoms.
If a woman’s condition is flared by a Candida hypersensitivity -- to which
even a slight imbalance can cause itching and burning -- weekly doses of an
oral antifungal medication over several weeks or months can help alleviate