Your vagina likes to keep you on your toes every now and then. From funky smells, weird discharge, rashes, bumps itching and burning, just what is really going on down there?
It's hard to know what your southern state has up its sleeve from time to time. We spoke with Dr. Lauren Streicher, MD of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Associate Professor at Northwestern University, OB/GYN Dr. Yvonne Bohn and Dr. Lona Prasad, OB/GYN at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian about every little (and big) thing that could possibly be happening to your lady parts.
1. Bacterial Vaginosis
If your crotch is particularly itchy, inflamed or has an especially unsavory smell (think old fish), you could have BV. This is a super common imbalance of bacteria in the vagina caused by changing pH levels, and it's often mistaken for a yeast infection according to Dr. Streicher. Do not self-treat if you're unsure about your symptoms, and schedule an appointment with your gyno.
2. Yeast Infection
Characterized by clumpy, cottage cheese-like discharge, yeast infections are among the most common and most uncomfortable vaginal ailments out there. You can use OTC creams and antifungal creams to treat the infection if you've had one before, but if you're unsure of your symptoms, head to your gyno for an evaluation.
The majority of women have no symptoms associated with gonorrhea. Streicher says some women do experience discharge and bleeding after sex, but it's crucial to get comprehensive testing with every new sexual partner regardless of your symptoms. Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics, but is becoming increasingly more difficult to treat with antibiotic resistance.
Like gonorrhea, this STI is often symptomless, but some women do experience increased discharge or painful urination, according to Prasad. Head to your doc or a sexual health clinic to get comprehensive testing from a medical professional with every new partner, or at least on a yearly basis. Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics.
You may or may not have heard of this STI, but it's more common than you think. It's usually symptomless, but you may experience greenish or foul-smelling discharge and an irritated cervix, according to Streicher. Treatment includes a round of antibiotics. Always ask your doc to check for trich during your comprehensive and routine STI checks.
Once thought to be an STI of the olden days, some strains of syphilis are now popping up across the nation. Streicher says funky discharge and painless sores are indicators you should head in for testing ASAP. Prasad screens her patients with a regular blood STI test on a routine basis, but she rarely sees cases of this STI.
7. HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
Most genital warts stem from a strain of HPV, specifically strains 6 and 11. Many life-threatening cancers can also develop from certain HPV strains not preventable from male condoms alone. Streicher suggests using female condoms and getting Gardasil vaccinations early to prevent certain HPV strains. Prasad removes some genital warts in her practice and recommends women come in for evals and keep up their regular pap smears to catch early signs of dangerous HPV strains.
This STI is characterized by red, painful bumps and sores lining the outside and inside of the vulva. A doc will perform a swab test to confirm whether or not you have it, but do NOT Google your symptoms—you'll be scarred for life. Herpes is incurable, but medication and safe sex practices help to keep the STI from spreading.
9. PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
If you have unusual discharge, you're feverish and you're aching like no other in your abdomen and pelvis, you could be at risk of suffering complications of PID. PID is a true medical emergency stemming from untreated STIs and vaginal buds; if you are exhibiting these symptoms, it's crucial to seek medical help immediately. If not treated quickly, some women will become infertile or will need surgery to fix damaged fallopian tubes.
10. UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)
Does peeing hurt like living hell? The majority of women will, unfortunately, experience the pain of a UTI sometime in their life (thanks, biology). Some women are more prone to them than others, but peeing after sex and drinking a lot of fluids both tend to help prevent UTIs from occurring, says Bohn. If you're having pain or trouble urinating or if there's blood in your urine, seek out a medical professional immediately.
If you see an angry red bump on your vag, don't jump to conclusions! It could very well be an inflamed, infected hair follicle—aka, folliculitis. Be sure to head to your doc just be sure, though (and whatever you do, do not Google red vagina bumps).
If it's itching up to high heaven down there and you've got a rash to boot, you might have a case of the crabs. Streicher claims this issue is usually self-diagnosable, and you can get treatments OTC instead of heading in for an eval.
Sometimes your vag is in pain all the time for no damn reason. This medical condition is often diagnosed after STI tests and gynecological exams, and Prasad has helped patients through different varieties of the disorder. It's a complex process to get a concrete vulvodynia diagnosis, but physical therapy can sometimes help in treating the disorder.
Your lady parts can often be the bane of your existence, but don't give up on your junk just yet! Be vigilant about keeping track of your sexual and overall health and strive to have open discussions with your healthcare provider about your vaginal well-being.