What’s causing my lower abdominal pain and vaginal discharge?
It is a common problem among women. They experience it during their menstrual cycle or they have experienced it before. There are many reasons why a woman may suffer from this condition. One of them is due to hormonal imbalance. Another reason could be a bacterial infection. A third one could be due to a virus.
Hormonal Imbalance: Women suffering from this condition often complain of feeling uncomfortable during menstruation and they feel like they don’t want to go through it again after having finished their periods. Other symptoms include headaches, mood swings, irritability, depression, weight gain and fatigue. These symptoms occur in all women regardless of age or marital status.
Bacterial Infection: Some women may suffer from vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis (bV) which causes unpleasant odor and discharge. BV is caused by overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in the female genital tract. It affects up to 5% of sexually active women and 10% of those who have never had sexual contact. Symptoms include burning sensation when urinating, itching, irritation, pain during sexual activity and increased frequency of passing blood clots.
If not treated, it can lead to complications such as infertility, preterm labor and low birth weight.
There are a few ways to determine whether a woman has a vaginal infection or hormonal imbalance. One way is by asking her questions such as her medical history, her menstrual cycle or if she has recently experienced any stressful events in her life. Another way is by simply examining the discharge and determining whether it has an unusual color or odor. If it is determined that the woman has a vaginal infection, it must be treated with antibiotics.
If it is a hormonal imbalance, the woman can use birth control to regulate her hormones as well as take medicine for the emotional and psychological symptoms.
Can a yeast infection cause abdominal pain and bloating?
A number of women have experienced an increase in abdominal pain in conjunction with white vaginal discharge. A lot of times people think that this is due to a yeast infection. While this can be the cause of this condition it is often not true. The most common cause of these symptoms is actually an STD and in some cases it can even lead to infertility.
A woman may experience a yeast infection which will cause irritation and a burning sensation when urinating. There may also be itching and sometimes there will be swelling in the vaginal area. In addition to this there may also be a white or creamy vaginal discharge. The discharge may have a fishy odor to it or in some cases it may not have any smell at all.
The discharge is often compared to the look of creamy cottage cheese.
A yeast infection will only affect women and this is due to the fact that women have a lot more yeast or fungus in their bodies than men do. The cause of a yeast infection is when a woman’s immune system isn’t functioning properly and there is an overgrowth of yeast or fungus in the body. There are a number of factors that can contribute to this including taking antibiotics, which kill off the friendly bacteria in the gut, having a disease like diabetes or HIV, being on steroids or any other medication that affects the immune system and your nutrition.
A lot of women experience yeast infections after they have taken antibiotics and a common question is why do antibiotics cause yeast infections?
Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria and not yeast. Because of this when you take antibiotics it is possible that the friendly bacteria in your body that keeps the yeast in check no longer exists or is significantly reduced. This allows the yeast to overgrow and causes a yeast infection.
When it comes to diagnosing a yeast infection, a medical professional can do it by examining the discharge under a microscope. They can also perform a “culture” where a sample of the discharge is tested. This is the most accurate way of diagnosing a yeast infection.
For most women, a simple trip to the pharmacy to pick up a bottle of an over the counter yeast infection treatment will solve the problem. In other cases a woman may experience ongoing or recurring yeast infections, particularly if there is an underlying condition like diabetes or HIV that needs to be addressed by a medical doctor.
Another common cause of a vaginal infection is a bacterial vaginosis (BV). This occurs when the normal bacteria in the vaginal area are disrupted and replaced with others. BV can be caused by having multiple sexual partners, having an STD or using an intrauterine device (IUD).
BV is diagnosed by a medical professional examining the discharge as well as taking a “culture” where a sample is tested. The symptoms of BV are similar to a yeast infection however they are often much more severe. Some of the common symptoms of BV include a gray or white vaginal discharge that has a “fishy” smell to it. The discharge is also usually quite thin and watery in nature.
Another way that a woman can experience vaginal discharge is through the presence of warts or genital warts. This is a virus that is sexually transmitted. It can be passed from one partner to another through contact with the infected area as well as through skin contact with the infected person. Warts are also a common occurrence in young children, particularly those who haven’t been vaccinated.
The symptoms of warts vary but some of the common symptoms for women include a painless vaginal discharge before, during or after sexual contact. There may also be itching and burning. It is important to get warts diagnosed by a medical professional because if left untreated they can develop into cervical cancer or other more serious conditions.
A medical professional diagnoses genital warts by taking a “culture” of the infected area and examining it under a microscope. There are numerous over the counter treatments for genital warts however these have varying levels of success. A more common and effective treatment is having the warts frozen off by a medical professional or burned off with acid.
While not a disease, vaginitis can also be caused by an allergic reaction to soaps, detergents, or even condoms. This can cause a vaginal discharge which may smell and be either white, gray or yellow in color. Treatment for this type of discharge is to eliminate whatever is causing the allergic reaction. If the cause is difficult to pin down, a doctor can prescribe a cortisone treatment.
In addition to discharge, there are other signs and symptoms of infection that can help with diagnosis. Some of these include:
Itching or burning in the vaginal area
A gray or white discharge that has a “cottage cheese” look or consistency
A yellow or green discharge that resembles jelly
An odor coming from the vaginal area
Pain while urinating or during sexual contact
Of course the only true way to know if you have a vaginal infection is to see a medical professional who can conduct tests and provide treatment.
If you get a vaginal infection and don’t seek treatment, the infection can become more severe. If left untreated a yeast infection can spread into the bloodstream and cause other complications such as a life-threatening infection. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) can be a sign of an HIV infection or other sexually transmitted disease. If left untreated, BV makes it easier to contract HIV and other STDs.
It is important to see a medical professional if you have any of these symptoms.
There are many over the counter creams and pills available that claim to treat vaginal discharge however there is no real way of knowing if these products actually work or are safe for you unless you see a medical professional first.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Most women experience at least one vaginal infection in their lifetime. In fact, some studies show that over 50% of all women have had at least one case of BV. BV is caused by a shift in the balance of bacteria in the vaginal area.
Most women who suffer from BV have no symptoms however some women complain of mild discharge or a fishy odor and thin gray-white discharge. Treatment of this condition usually involves taking antibiotics.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite and is easily spread through vaginal, or in some rare cases, penile-vaginal contact. This condition is also known as “trich.” The symptoms of trich are very similar to those of a yeast infection or BV. Most women experience a severe burning sensation when they urinate and have a thin gray-white discharge.
Other symptoms include itching of the labia and pain during sexual contact.
Sources & references used in this article:
Vaginal discharge—causes, diagnosis, and treatment by H Mitchell – Bmj, 2004 – bmj.com
Vaginal discharge: common causes and management by R McCathie – Current Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 2006 – Elsevier
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Identification of symptoms that indicate a pelvic examination is necessary to exclude PID in adolescent women by DR Blake, K Fletcher, N Joshi, SJ Emans – Journal of pediatric and …, 2003 – Elsevier
Clinical features of women with chronic lower abdominal pain and pelvic congestion by RW Beard, PW Reginald… – BJOG: An International …, 1988 – Wiley Online Library
Low prevalence of cervical infections in women with vaginal discharge in west Africa: implications for syndromic management by J Pepin, S Deslandes, N Khonde, DF Kintin… – Sexually transmitted …, 2004 – sti.bmj.com
Diagnostic value of vaginal discharge, wet mount and vaginal pH–an update on the basics of gynecologic infectiology by W Frobenius, C Bogdan – Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde, 2015 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
The profile of infertility in a teaching Hospital in North West Nigeria by AA Panti, YT Sununu – Sahel Medical Journal, 2014 – smjonline.org