Listed below are some of the most common gynecological problems and symptoms that women of all ages encounter. A brief overview of the condition or symptoms, some treatment options and signs about when to see your doctor is provided. A more detailed explanation of the condition can also be explored by clicking on the link.
Gynecological health is an important part of a woman’s overall health. Use the guide below to help determine what conditions need to be dealt with by an OBGYN and what can be dealt with at home. Remember, if in doubt, always seek further medical advice from your doctor.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding is any vaginal bleeding that is not related to a woman’s normal menstrual cycle. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is a general term that includes a large number of gynecological conditions that cause bleeding outside of menstruation. Abnormal vaginal bleeding may also be a menstruation pattern that differs from normal. For example, excessively long menstrual periods, absent/irregular menstrual periods or extremely painful menstrual periods.
Causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding include
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Menopause related bleeding
Abnormal vaginal bleeding should always be investigated by your doctor. The treatment of abnormal vaginal bleeding will depend on its cause. Once a diagnosis is established, you and your doctor can determine the best treatment options for your case.
Pelvic pain is pain that affects the lower part of the abdomen (the area between the belly button and groin). Pelvic pain is a very common symptom that may be caused by anything from menstrual cramps to a ruptured ovarian cyst. Common causes of pelvic pain include fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or ovarian cysts. Investigations of pelvic pain may include diagnostic imaging or blood tests. The treatment of pelvic pain will be determined by its cause.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths of the uterus that often appear in women especially during the 30s and 40s. Fibroids do not always cause symptoms but when they do, women may experience pelvic pain or severe menstrual cramps. They may also notice extremely heavy menstrual bleeding or increased urination frequency. Although fibroids are not dangerous, they can cause discomfort and may lead to complications such as anemia from heavy blood loss.
Furthermore, fibroids that grow in certain parts of the uterus can interfere with pregnancy. Steps can be taken to help deal with this challenge but it is important for all women that experience symptoms of fibroids to speak to their doctor. The treatment of a fibroid depends on many factors like the severity of the symptoms, a woman’s age, whether she is currently pregnant or planning to start a family in the near future.
Endometriosis is a medical condition in which tissue cells that normally line the inside of the uterus (the endometrium) begin to grow outside of the uterus instead. This can lead to symptoms of heavy bleeding, abdominal pain or painful intercourse. These symptoms should also be discussed with your doctor. Several management options for endometriosis exist.
Painful and frequent urination are symptoms that are linked to urinary tract infection (UTI), vaginitis and STIs (ie. chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes). All of these conditions require medical treatment and should be attended to by your doctor.
- UTI’s are characterized by painful urination, a burning sensation when passing urine or a strong-smelling urine. They can be treated by a course of antibiotics. Left untreated, the infection of a UTI can travel up towards the kidneys. Therefore, prompt treatment is recommended.
- Vaginitis occurs when the vagina or vulva have an infection or irritation. This disruption in the normal environment of the vagina leads to some of the symptoms of abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal itching or burning. The causes of vaginitis are numerous but these symptoms should always prompt further investigations.
- STI’s can produce a number of symptoms such as unusual vaginal discharge, rashes in the genital area and pain during urination. It is recommended that women experiencing any of these symptoms speak to their doctor or attend a sexual health clinic as soon as possible. Untreated STI’s can lead to long term infections and problems with fertility.
Vaginal discomfort is a general term that refers to any condition that causes itchiness, irritability or pain in the vagina. There are numerous causes of vaginal discomfort and most women will have at least one experience of this condition over the course of their lives. Symptoms of vaginal itching, vaginal odor or abnormal vaginal discharge should be investigated.
Periods can be unpredictable. Most women will experience moments when their periods deviate from what they consider to be their ‘usual period’. This is normal. However, if your period starts to change significantly from what you usually expect, this could be an irregular period. An irregular period may be:
- Menstrual periods that last longer than seven days (menorrhagia).
- Menstrual periods that are particularly heavy (ie. needing to change a pad or tampon every hour or two).
- Menstrual periods that are light, absent or keep happening at irregular times.
- Bleeding in between periods (ie. small spotting of small amounts of blood between periods)
- Bleeding after menopause.
All of these circumstances should be discussed with your doctor. It may be a variation of normal or something that requires further investigations.
Sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) should always be treated seriously. Common STI symptoms include
- Unusual discharge (ie. different colour or smell).
- Pain in the genital area.
- Warts or rash in the genital area.
- Painful urination.
If one or more of these symptoms are present, make an appointment to get tested immediately. An untreated STI can lead to long term complications. Treatment options will depend on the specific infection identified. In some cases, a course of antibiotics is all that is needed. Other STI’s may require more detailed treatment.
All sexually active women should get tested for STI’s on a regular basis. Even if you don’t have symptoms, routine STI testing is mandatory for good health.
The average age of menopause is 51 but many women will begin to experience some of the signs of menopause in the years leading up to this. This period of time is known as perimenopause. Symptoms of menopause or perimenopause include hot flashes, irritability, mood changes and difficulty sleeping. For women with light or mild symptoms of menopause it is important to know that the symptoms of menopause may disappear on their own. However, if the symptoms of menopause begin to interfere with your quality of life or interrupt your day-to-day activities, make an appointment to see your doctor. There are a number of medical, non-medical or natural management options that can be discussed.