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Women's Health

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Your Privates Problems -- Solved


Noninfectious Vaginitis

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.

Yeast Infection

Symptoms: itchy, irritated, and sensitive genitals; a white, "cheesy" discharge.
How you get it: Normally, yeast, a fungus, lives harmlessly in your vagina. But certain factors can encourage it to overgrow. For example, oral antibiotics can wipe out the good bacteria that keep yeast in check, and spermicides encourage yeast to stick to vaginal walls, where it multiples. Tight clothes also create a dark, moist environment in which yeast flourishes.
What to do: Self-test with Fem-V, available over-the-counter for $8. You wear a special panty liner for six hours; the indicator strip tells you if you have a yeast infection, which you can treat with drugstore remedies. If it's not a yeast infection, see a doctor -- you could have one of the conditions above.

What Is "Normal"?
Up to 21 percent of women who believe they have a vaginal infection turn out to be healthy. "It's completely normal to experience some itching and changes in wetness or odor," says Paul Nyirjesy, M.D., director of the Drexel Vaginitis Center in Philadelphia. A guide to regular discharge: It's minimal right after your period, opaque and sticky after that, and stretchy and clear mid-cycle. Prior to your next period, it should look tacky and chalky yellow or white.



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