Genital Problems in Women

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Vaginal irritation and discharge are common problems for many women. Follow this chart for help in understanding and self-treating many of these problems.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
Begin Here

1. Do you have a vaginal discharge that is normal in color, consistency and smell, but has the amount increased?


Yes

This is most likely related to normal hormone changes or use of oral contraceptives.

See your doctor if the condition worsens or bothers you.

No

2. Do you have a discharge that is white and curd-like, or are you experiencing vaginal or labial redness, itching and irritation?


Yes

You may have a yeast infection or CANDIDIASIS. FUNGAL INFECTIONS and IRRITATION from feminine hygiene sprays can also cause a rash.

See your doctor if this is the first time you've had these symptoms. Yeast infections may be treated with over-the-counter medicines. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing to allow the area to breathe. Fungal infections may be treated with an over-the-counter antifungal cream.

No

3. Do you have a greenish yellow discharge with an unpleasant odor?


No

Go to Question 5.*

Yes

4. Are you experiencing abdominal pain or pain during sex?


Yes

You may have PELVIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASE (PID), a serious infection around your fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus, or a sexually transmitted infection such as TRICHOMONIASIS.

URGENT
See your doctor right away.


No

Your discharge may be from BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS.

See your doctor.


*5. Do you have a tender swelling of the vaginal opening or swelling of one labia?


Yes

This swelling might be from an INFECTION in a mucous gland or an ABSCESS or infection in the labia.

URGENT
See your doctor right away.

No

6. Do you have a sore or raw area on the outside or inside of the vagina?


Yes

HERPES infections and other SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS often start with a sore.

See your doctor.

No

7. Do you have pain with intercourse?


No

Go to Question 10.**

Yes

8. Does your vagina seem dry, or are you experiencing vaginal itching and irritation?


Yes

Painful intercourse may be a sign of INFECTION or HORMONE DEFICIENCY.

See your doctor. He or she can determine the cause of your symptoms and suggest the best treatment for you. Vaginal dryness can be relieved with vaginal lubricants.

No

9. Are you anxious about having sex?


Yes

Painful intercourse can be due to VAGINISMUS, an involuntary spasm of the muscles around the vagina.

See your doctor if you think you may have vaginismus. Treatment is available. Certain exercises, including the contraction and relaxation of pelvic muscles, may help improve muscle control.

No

**10. Do you have pain with urination?


Yes

You may have a bladder infection, or CYSTITIS.

See your doctor. Bladder infections are treated with antibiotics. Drinking cranberry juice may help prevent bladder infections.

No

11. Do you leak urine when you cough, laugh or lift an object?


Yes

This may be a symptom of STRESS INCONTINENCE, a common condition after giving birth.

Discuss the problem with your doctor. You can strengthen your bladder with Kegel exercises. Empty your bladder frequently to help prevent urine leaks. Protective shields or adult diapers may also help. Surgery may also be an option.

No

For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.

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