Do you see your gynecologist once a year for your annual exam? If you do, you are being proactive towards staying healthy and preventing illness. However, there may come a time when you may need to see them for a problem. In fact, for many women, their gynecologist acts as their primary care provider – their “go to” provider for their healthcare needs. If you think you might be pregnant, or if you are concerned that you have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), then a call to your gynecologist is a reasonable course of action. However, doctors that specialize in women’s health (obstetrics and gynecology, or OB/GYN) have the necessary advanced training to manage any number of health problems that a female may encounter. The following are just a few of the many different reasons you should see your gynecologist.
Concerning Urinary Symptoms
Painful, frequent urination with feelings of burning and urgency are the cardinal signs that a woman may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). In fact, half of all women have usually experienced a UTI at least once by the time they are 32 years of age. Sometimes this resolves with an increased intake of water, but antibiotics are often needed to treat the illness. Some women also suffer from recurrent UTIs and may need additional treatment to control the problem. Older women sometimes have similar symptoms with no infection, however the thinning of tissue near the vaginal and bladder opening that occurs as we age may create similar sensations to that of a UTI. The best way to identify the problem and receive proper treatment is by calling your doctor; and your gynecologist is a good place to look for help.
As women age, or after they have had multiple childbirths, they often complain of difficulty controlling their bladder. This might mean that they have leaking when they do certain activities like running or sneezing. This is called stress incontinence. Urge incontinence is characterized by having difficulty getting to the bathroom in time. There are a number of different causes of incontinence, and the cause will dictate the treatment. Sometimes the answer is as simple as doing the kegel exercises you learned when you were pregnant, but other treatments may include medications or surgery. Women are often embarrassed about discussing incontinence, but trusting your gynecologist could bring you relief from this treatable problem.
Vaginal Burning and Itching
Increased vaginal discharge, along with burning and itching, can be caused by a number of different things. Sometimes it is an infection, but it can also be the result of stress or hygiene practices. Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina, while bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection, and candidiasis is a yeast infection. Each disorder is treated differently, and the only way to know for sure that you are receiving the correct treatment is by seeing your doctor.
Some habits that are good to form for the prevention of problems include avoiding multiple sex partners, getting plenty of rest, reducing stress, eating a healthy diet with few refined sugars, keeping your vaginal area clean and dry, avoiding sitting for too long in a wet bathing suit or sweaty workout clothes, avoiding douching, and making sure your diaphragm is clean. Nobody is expected to know all of the potential problems that can occur, but your gynecologist can help, and can also offer great advice on cleanliness and good habits.
Abnormal periods can be defined as coming at irregular intervals, painful, too heavy or too light, or missing them completely. The first thing that should always be considered is pregnancy, if a woman is at all sexually active. After that is ruled out, there are many different reasons for a woman’s period to be abnormal. This includes different hormonal problems like thyroid, diabetes, and menopause, that can cause abnormal bleeding. Additionally, medications, infections, trauma, and other systemic illnesses may affect the regularity and/or abnormal symptoms related to you menstrual cycle. Seeing your gynecologist is your best bet in identifying the problem and receiving appropriate treatment.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive, despite 12 months of frequent and unprotected sexual intercourse. However, if you fall into this category, take comfort in the fact that as many as 50% of all healthy couples who have not conceived in their first 12 months, will experience a pregnancy within the next 12 months. If you are concerned, the first person you should discuss this with is your OB/GYN. They can review your particular set of circumstances, make suggestions that might improve your chances of conception, and run initial tests to identify any problems. If necessary, they are your best resource for a referral to a fertility specialist.
Breast pain is one of the most common complaints that women seek medical attention for. It is a valid concern for women to be either vigilant or afraid when it comes to looking out for breast cancer. The good news is that most of the time the pain is caused by a problem that is not serious. Hormone fluctuations during a menstrual cycle and musculoskeletal injury are two of the most common causes.
However, breast cancer might also be suspected, especially if the pains occurs after menopause or is accompanied by changes in the skin or shape of the breast. Additionally, nipple discharge can be benign; however, clear or bloody discharge from one breast is a greater cause for concern. Any time you have concerning symptoms related to your breasts, it is time to consult your gynecologist.
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
When experiencing intimate partner violence, many women are afraid, embarrassed, or just don’t know where to turn. IPV is a pattern of abuse where a partner attempts to control the other through force, intimidation, or threats of violence. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, or simply a threat of violence. Depending on the type of abuse, up to one quarter of women in the U.S. report being victims at one point in their life. The effects of abuse can be seen in all areas of a women’s life, including socially, emotionally, and physically. If you are experiencing IPV, you should be able to tell your gynecologist. He or she will not judge you, but will listen to you and get you the help that you need.
If you have any questions or concerns about your health, or are interested in finding out more about the services we offer, call the caring experts at University OB/GYN Associates in Syracuse, NY. We are happy to address all of your women’s health issues with you, and set you on a path for continuing care. Call (315) 464-5162 today, or request an appointment online.