For most women, a couple of irregular menstrual cycles or an occasional yeast infection are just a part of life — nothing that time or simple treatment won’t cure.
However, there are a few symptoms that warrant a call to the doctor. This article will cover when you should call your doctor for problems “down there”?
1. Pelvic pain. Pain at the time of ovulation is referred to as Mittelschmerz. However, if you have pelvic pain that persists or doesn’t ease with simple home treatment, call your doctor.
When a woman has chronic pelvic pain, doctors will check for benign uterine fibroids and endometriosis. They will also look for pelvic inflammatory disease, which usually appears as a triad of pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, and fever.
In addition, abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding may signal an ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. This is a medical emergency and you need to visit an emergency room if you can’t reach your doctor.
Ovarian cancer is another condition that can cause pelvic pain. The symptoms of bloating, pelvic pressure and frequency of urination for more than two weeks is a potential sign that you should be checked for a possible ovarian cancer.
2. Irregular bleeding. If you’re not on any kind of birth control and you have irregular bleeding that lasts for more than a month or two, you should always be checked. Irregular bleeding includes periods that last longer than normal, bleeding mid-month, having two periods per month, bleeding after sex, and other unusual patterns. Abnormal bleeding may stem from multiple causes that aren’t serious, among them, perimenopause or uterine fibroids or polyps.
If you bleed every time after sex, that may indicate that the cervix is being easily irritated especially if there’s some infection of the cervix. Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, can cause cervical lesions that bleed with sex.
If you’re postmenopausal, be especially vigilant about any vaginal bleeding; it’s a potential sign of uterine cancer. Uterine cancer, compared to ovarian cancer, is extremely treatable. It’s very curable because it’s generally found in an early stage and it has an early warning sign, which is postmenopausal bleeding.
3. Abnormal vaginal discharge. Abnormal symptoms include a strong odor; an unusually large amount of discharge; accompanying itching, burning, or irritation; unusual color; or blood in the discharge.
4. Vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women or vaginal atrophy can cause spotting after intercourse. Because older women have less estrogen, their vaginal tissue thins or atrophies and become dry and irritated. Not only does vaginal dryness make sex painful, but vaginal thinning also leaves women more susceptible to infections and can contribute to urinary incontinence.
Most women can find relief with estrogen creams, rings, or tablets that are applied or inserted directly into the vagina.
5. Sores or lumps. Sores in the genital area may point to herpes, a sexually transmitted disease or cancer. Symptoms of cancer of the vulva include unusual lumps, wart-like bumps, or red, flat sores that don’t heal. Sometimes, the flat sores turn scaly or discolored.
Bottom Line: Most problems “down there” are innocuous, but you should know when to call your doctor. These are the five most common symptoms that need your attention and that of your doctor.
Neil Baum is a urologist at Touro Infirmary and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practices: Ethically, Effectively, Economically. He can be reached at his self-titled site, Neil Baum, MD, or on Facebook and Twitter.