Your Privates Problems -- Solved
By Janis Graham
Discomfort "down there" doesn't always mean what you
Worried you have a yeast infection? Don't be so quick to diagnose -- or
treat -- yourself. "About 75 percent of women who believe their symptoms
signal a yeast infection have something else," says Jennifer Gunter, M.D.,
director of pelvic pain and vulvovaginal disorders at Kaiser Permanente San
Francisco Medical Center. What's more, improper diagnosis and treatment can
have long-term effects: Some vaginal infections increase your risk of
infertility, complicated pregnancies, and contracting certain STDs. Use our
guide to determine the real source of your troubles -- and the right cure.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Symptoms: A fishy-smelling, watery discharge that's particularly noticeable
after intercourse; itchiness.
How you get it: About 46 percent of women who visit their doctor to treat a
vaginal infection have BV. It's caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that
normally reside in the vagina. Experts aren't sure what triggers this
overgrowth, but douching, using an intrauterine device (IUD), or having a new
sex partner can alter vaginal bacteria levels and increase
What to do: See your ob/gyn right away to check for evidence of a bacterial
overgrowth. Women with BV are more likely to contract HIV if exposed, and to
suffer from pelvic scarring, which can lead to infertility. BV is also linked
to low birth weight and preterm birth in pregnant women. The infection is
easily treated with antibiotics, but be aware: It returns in up to 30 percent
of women within three months. If that happens, you may need a longer course of
Symptoms: A frothy, yellow-green discharge; a musty odor; bleeding after
How you get it: Trich is the most common curable STD in young, sexually active
women and is caused by a parasite that passes from partner to partner. Like BV,
the infection is linked to preterm delivery and low birth weight. Men may
experience itching or burning after urination or ejaculation but are often
asymptomatic, which may be why trich is easily spread.
What to do: See your gyno. Trich can be cured with a single dose of the
antibiotics tinidazole or metronidazole. Your partner should seek treatment
Symptoms: Inflamed, itchy genitals.
How you get it: Although an infection is usually the cause of these symptoms,
sometimes an allergy or irritation is to blame. Vaginal tissue is delicate and
some women are sensitive to sprays, douches, spermicides, or perfumes.
What to do: Skip feminine-hygiene products -- your vagina is self-cleansing --
and stick to gentle soaps. Soothe soreness with Eucerin lotion, A+D Ointment,
or Aquaphor ointment. Finally, launder underwear in unscented detergent (nix
the fabric softener -- it leaves irritating residue) and rinse them well.