Causes of bleeding in between cycles

Why am I getting bleeding between my periods?

Vaginal bleeding between periods can be common and is not generally a cause for concern. Most of the time women will get just very light pink coloured watery flow, or just some spotting. There can be many reasons why a woman would be getting bleeding between periods, which includes hormonal changes, injury, or an underlying gynaecological, or health condition.

While bleeding between your periods may not be cause for concern, on one level, the ideal situation is to not have any form of bleeding at all and if you do get bleeding between your cycle, it is a good idea to have this investigated, just to be on the safe side.

What a proper menstrual cycle should be like

I have done quite a few posts on what a proper menstrual cycle should be like, but I will go over this again just briefly

A proper menstrual cycle should be between 26-32 days in length and really only have about 3-5 days flow. Any longer than this can be too long and put a woman at risk of being low in iron, especially if this happens all the time.

The blood flow should be a nice red consistency, no clots, with no stopping and starting, and women shouldn’t have too many digestive disruptions, and really, a woman should not be getting pain with her cycle. A little bit of distention and knowing the period is coming is fine, but there should not be pain at all. If you have to reach for the pain killers and the heat pack, or are doubled up in pain, this is not normal and you need to get this checked out.

What are the causes of bleeding between periods?

As mentioned before, there can be a variety of reasons for breakthrough bleeding, some of which are no cause for concern at all. Some however do need to be investigated.

Below are some of reasons for bleeding between periods:

Ovulation

When an egg is released from the ovary, it does create a tiny wound, through which the egg will then travel through the tubes and prepare to make its way to be fertilised, or then shed with the menstrual flow. At ovulation, this tiny wound can also create a tiny amount of bleeding, which can be seen as spotting during the ovulatory phase of a woman’s cycle.

Implantation bleeding

When an embryo implants into the uterine lining and begins to grow, many women experience spotting around this time. This is called implantation bleeding. They may also experience some slight cramping at the same time and all of this is quite normal. Some women may then experience some lighter bleeding as the embryo grows further. They usually get some light spotting, which can be a light pink, or a brown colour. Sometimes it can be more like fresh blood. While this is normal, it is a good idea to get this checked out just to be on the safe side and to also put the pregnant mothers mind as ease too.

Miscarriage

Bleeding between menstrual periods can be an early sign of a miscarriage. Many women may not even know they are pregnant and may be completely unaware they are having a miscarriage.  While it is generally thought that once a woman reaches twelve weeks gestation everything is generally going to be ok, miscarriages can occur at any time during pregnancy.

Termination

After having a termination women can bleed for some time after the procedure, or taking the medication to start the abortion process. If bleeding continues and is very heavy, women need to seek medical advice.

Polyps 

Polyps are small growths that can develop in the uterus or on the cervix. They are often a cause for unexplained bleeding between the cycles. Polyps do need to be removed as they can prevent implantation happening and they can also turn cancerous if left behind. Polyps are a very common cause of bleeding between periods.

Fibroids

Fibroids, or myomas (also known as leiomyomas, or fibromyomas) are growths, or benign (non-cancerous) tumours that form in the muscle of the uterus. Up to 40% of women over the age of 40 years have fibroids and as many as 3 out of 4 women develop fibroids in their lifetime.

Fibroids can cause heavy bleeding, extended bleed and painful periods. They can also cause infertility, miscarriage and premature labour. In many women, they will not cause any problems at all. Fibroids are a very common cause of bleeding between the cycles.

Polycystic Ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common condition that can cause irregular periods, absent periods, and can also cause bleeding between periods. PCOS can also cause other issues such as acne, weight gain, infertility and hormonal and emotional disturbances.

Endometriosis or Adenomyosis

One in ten women are diagnosed with endometriosis and many more do not even know that they have it. Endometriosis and Adenomyosis are very closely related, with endometriosis usually being more superficial disease and not confined to the uterus,  and adenomyosis being deep within the uterine tissue. Chronic conditions such as endometriosis and adenomyosis, can cause bleeding or spotting between periods.  These conditions may also cause heavy or painful menstrual periods and cramps between periods. Adenomyosis will usually cause more bleeding symptoms along with pain etc.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause pain, vaginal bleeding and spotting. If you do suspect you may have a STI, you need to see your doctor for investigation and treatment.

Injury to the vaginal wall

During sexual intercourse the tissue of the vagina can be damaged and this can then cause bleeding. If the vagina is too dry, lack of arousal, and not lubricated enough this is more likely to happen. It can also happen if there is atrophy in the vaginal tissue as well. This is called atrophic vaginitis.  This is more likely to be seen when a woman is going into menopause, or undergoing cancer treatments, or has diabetes.

Menopause or perimenopause

The menopausal stage of life and especially the perimenopause stage, can be a cause of irregular menses and irregular bleeding. It can also cause spotting, or heavy bleeding too. Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause. This stage of a woman’s life can last for up to 10 years as hormone levels in the body change and can be unstable.

Hormonal contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives are a common cause of bleeding between periods. They can also cause irregular bleeding and this can be quite usual in the first 3 months of using the contraceptive. If a woman misses takin her oral contraceptive, it can also cause irregular bleeding, or a withdrawal bleed.  Intrauterine Devices (IUD’s) like the Mirena, will often cause irregular periods and irregular bleeding in the first 3 months after it have been inserted. If bleeding lasts for longer than 3 months on any contraceptive, it is a good idea to seek medical advice and get investigated and managed properly.

Emergency contraception

The morning after pill, or emergency contraceptives, may also cause bleeding. If bleeding persists, you should seek medical advice.

Certain cancers

Vaginal bleeding between periods can also be a sign of gynaecological cancers in women. Most bleeding that women get is not serious, but it still needs to be checked.  Cervical cancer can affect women of any age. Bleeding between the cycle, or after intercourse, and pain after intercourse, or unpleasant smelling discharge can be symptoms of cervical cancer and these all need to be checked by your doctor, or gynaecologist.

Uterine cancer tends to occur in women over 50 year of age. One of the early symptoms of uterine cancer can be vaginal bleeding. Uterine cancer mostly affects women are in the menopause and no longer have periods, so this is why any bleeding after menopause needs to be investigate and seen as not being normal.

Stress

Yes, stress can cause abnormal bleeding and also interfere with a woman’s cycle. Increased levels of stress can interfere with hormones and this can lead to bleeding, irregular cycles, or pain with cycles too.

When to see a doctor

If vaginal bleeding between periods is heavy, persistent, or unusual then a woman should go and see a specialist, or a gynaecologist, who is a specialist in this area of medicine. As mentioned previously, while some causes of bleeding are not serious, some are and need to be properly investigated and properly managed medically.

Treatment and prevention

All women should keep a record of their menstrual cycle and when the period starts and how long it lasts for. Any abnormal bleeding should be recorded so that you can show your healthcare specialist if need be. Any abnormal bleeding should be investigated and the treatment will depend on what the underlying cause is.

Women should try and see their healthcare specialist for regular pap smears and regular check-ups for gynaecological health.

If women are getting small tears and bleeding caused from dryness in the vagina, then there are water based lubricants that can be used to help with lubrication and to moisturise the surrounding tissue.

There is no cure for gynaecological and reproductive issues such PCOS and Endometriosis, but these disease states can be treated and managed to give women a normal life. Proper treatment of these issues needs a “Team”, or multimodality approach using medical options, surgical interventions, pelvic floor specialists, acupuncture, herbal medicines, hormone therapies, and diet and lifestyle changes. It is about using what works for the individual and not a blanket one treatment fits all approach.

Last but not least, all women should know that period pain is not normal and that irregular bleeding really isn’t normal either. While most causes of bleeding are not life threatening, they still need to be investigated and checked out properly. Never ever put off seeing a specialist if you have abnormal bleeding.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

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HotFlashes 4 650x450

Menopause

The average Australian woman reaches menopause at 51 years of age- with a normal range from 40-55. Contrary to the popular concept, the female body does not become depleted of eggs at this time, but the remaining follicles become less and less responsive to hormonal stimulation.

Premature menopause is defined as cessation of ovarian function prior to 40 years of age. About 1% of women will experience menopause before 40.

The approach of menopause is signalled by rising LH and FSH levels as the pituitary attempts to prompt a response by the ovaries.

The menopause signals the permanent end of most ovarian function and hence the menstrual cycle in a woman’s life. Sex hormones don’t only influence reproductive tissues but also have a multitude of other functions including effects on bone and mineral metabolism, cardiovascular function, memory and cognition, effects on the breast and genitourinary system as well as nutrient absorption.

There are a variety of symptoms which are believed to be due to reduced oestrogen levels and approximately 85% of women will experience some of these symptoms to a greater or lesser degree. These symptoms can be summarised as:

Vasomotor symptoms– (these tend to be early onset):-Hot flushes ( or “flashes” as they are called in USA literature), Night sweats, Formication ( a particularly unpleasant sensation likened to ants crawling under the skin – “formica” is latin for ant)

Urogenital Symptoms– (tend to occur about 3-4 years after menopause):-Dry Vagina, Change in vaginal pH, Atrophic vaginitis/altered vaginal discharge, Dyspareunia, Urinary frequency/dysuria/aggravation of stress incontinence

Associated physical changes-these are partly the result of the normal ageing process, but may be accelerated by declining oestrogen levels. These may include decreased fitness and flexibility, changes in distribution of body fat, changes in sleep patterns

Loss of elasticity of skin and support tissues (may result in):- Worsening of uterine prolapsed, Loss of glandular breast tissue ( breast size and texture changes), Skin changes and wrinkling, Less nipple sensitivity and erectile potential, Joint and muscle pain, Skin dryness

Emotional and psychological changes– it is sometimes difficult to separate the hormonal from the personality-driven and situational as the cause for these symptoms, but women at the menopause may complain of such symptoms as:- Anxiety and/or depression, Insomnia, Lack of concentration and poor memory

Effects on Bone– (these effects may not become apparent until some years after menopause) :- Osteopenia/osteoporosis, Fracture and bone pain

There are other symptoms which have been ascribed to declining androgen levels, though the evidence is less clear-cut. These may include such symptoms as:
Change of body shape – increasing fat deposition around abdomen, less at buttocks and thighs
Loss of libido :- Many libido issues are caused by emotional issues and changes to lifestyle rather than being a hormonal issue
Change in body hair distribution– Pubic hair thins, hair on the head may thin or if woman carries the gene for male-pattern baldness may recede at temples and crown. Facial hair may increase.

Treating symptoms of Menopause

The main cause of people seeking treatment for the menopause is for relief from vasomotor symptoms, the main one being hot flushes or night sweats.

There is a lot of misinformation about the peri-menopause and menopause stage of a woman’s life. Some of the peri-menopause (meaning before the menopause) symptoms can start up to 8 years before a woman actually goes into menopause (meaning the menses stop). Then some of the actual menopausal symptoms can last many years after the menses has stopped and this is something that is not discussed enough and often poorly understood by many, including many healthcare practitioners.

Some women with menopausal symptoms do not choose to pursue any medical treatment when they experience it. However, some women have severe symptoms that affect their quality of life, and may need to have medical treatment in the form of hormone replacement. One of the biggest fears around hormone replacement therapy is the increased risk of breast cancer. You can talk to your specialist, or doctor about these risks before you start any form of treatment. There are now compounded bio-identical hormones to assist menopausal symptoms and these may not have the breast cancer risk factors of conventional hormone replacement medications.

Examples of some medical treatments available for menopause include:

  • Hormone replacement therapy, such as taking estrogen therapy at the lowest, most effective dose.
  • Vaginal estrogen, which is applied directly to the vaginal tissues to aid with elasticity and assisting with vaginal atrophy
  • Antidepressants (SSRI’s), have been shown to reduce the incidence of hot flashes in some postmenopausal women.

Traditional medical HRT can also help with bone strength and reduce the risk factors for heart disease.

Bioidentical Hormones

The Women’s Health Initiative of 2002, issued a warning against the long-term use of traditional hormone therapy (HT) because of the increased risk of breast cancer, but this study was poorly explained and created lots of panic for both practitioner and patient alike. Since then alternative methods, such as bioidentical hormone therapy, have been developed.

Bioidentical hormones  are chemically the same as those that the body produces naturally. As a result, the body should is not able to tell the difference between the hormones it produces and the bioidentical ones. Bioidentical hormones can be made from a variety of sources that span plant and animal products and are said to have less side effects than traditional hormone replacement medications. Many women get great relief from Bio-identical Hormones, but it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about these and if they are suited for you

Complementary Medicines

Women may also consider trying herbal medicines or other dietary supplements as a means to reduce the incidence of menopause symptoms. There are now many menopausal formulations on the market and anyone wishing to use complementary medicines should speak to a qualified complementary medicine practitioner about what is suitable for them. Never self prescribe natural medicines with consultation from a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Chinese medicine has been treating and assisting symptoms menopause for thousands of years very effectively. The key to Chinese medicine treatment is that a practitioner will assess and treat each person individually, not with the one treatment fix all plan. We aren’t all the same so why should we all be given the same treatment.

It must be noted that up until recent times the Chinese did not have a word for Menopause and that very few women experienced any of the symptoms of menopause. The only ones that did seem to were the rich and those of noble heritage, who ate very rich and luxurious diets. This does show that diet and lifestyle factors do affect menopausal symptoms. Many used to believe that the Chinese didn’t get menopause because of their higher consumption of phytoestrogens such as soy. This has now been proven not the case, as soy products “do not” have any benefit to menopausal symptoms, but adherence to proper diet and lifestyle improvements does.

There is also some really good evidence to show that acupuncture can assist with hot flushes and also assist with the symptoms of menopause.

Things to do at home

In addition to medical and complementary medicine treatments, there are many at-home treatments that a woman can do to reduce menopausal symptoms. These include:

  • Avoiding triggers that are know to make hot flushes worse. Examples can eating spicy foods, drinking hot beverages, acidic foods,  being in hot weather, or being in hot rooms.
  • Using water-based vaginal lubricants during sexual activity to reduce discomfort due to dryness and thinning tissues. Vaginal estrogen creams may be needed as well
  • Reduce Stress & Practicing stress-relieving techniques. Examples can include mindfulness, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation, yoga,  journaling, massage, counselling and other forms of relaxation therapy
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can increase the risk of hot flushes and contributes to many other health issues such as certain cancers.
  • Do Weight Baring Exercise. Weight baring exercise is needed to keep strong and health bones and it also has other health benefits. You can also look into doing yoga and pilates to help with core strength and to help with pelvic floor strength and tone. Exercising can also help to relieve stress.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises. Kegels exercises or use of Jade eggs (known as yoni eggs), or Ba Wen Balls, can help with pelvic floor muscles and increase blood flow into the vagina and pelvic floor area and also help with bladder control

Summary

It must be noted that menopause is a normal part of a woman’s life and menopause is not a medical condition. The main reason that women seek help in menopause for is the menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, dryness and loss of libido etc. At my clinic I use a multi-modality and individualized approach to treating  and assisting the symptoms of menopause, using a combination of Medical science, Integrative Medicine treatments,  Chinese herbs, Diet, Nutritional supplements and Lifestyle changes and find this gives the best results in assisting my patients.

Regards
Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Retina 20 07 2016

 

Fertility Diet for website

Mediterranean Style Diet May Help to Improve Pregnancy Rates for Couples Undergoing IVF and Assisted Reproduction.

New research published in Human Reproduction, has found that those who follow a “Mediterranean” style diet at least six months before assisted reproductive treatment have a significantly better chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth to a live baby than women who did not.

As part of my Fertility Program, one of the first things I talk to couples about is the importance of a healthy diet that has adequate protein, lots of vegetables, seeds and nuts, healthy oils, adequate water intake, electrolytes and cutting out all the refined carbohydrates that cause inflammation. The hard thing is that I hardly see a couple following those health food principles, with many not even really knowing what a health diet is. The diet that I promote is a Primal based diet.

Previous studies have shown that when refined carbohydrates are cut out and replaced with proteins, essential fats and good carbohydrates, such as fruit and vegetables, that the clinical pregnancy rates shot up by 80%. (Fertility & Sterility 2012 Volume 98 issues 3 Page S47)

In this new study, researchers focussed in dietary patterns rather than individual nutrients, food, or food groups. They found that those who ate lean protein, more fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and olive oil, had a 70% greater likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and birth compared to women who didn’t follow this style of diet.

The research outcomes found that out of the 244 women in the study, 229 women (93.9%) had at least one embryo transferred to their wombs; 138 (56%) had a successful implantation; 104 (42.6%) achieved a clinical pregnancy (one that can be confirmed by ultrasound); and 99 (40.5%) gave birth to a live baby.

The most important message to come from the study is that women attempting to have a baby should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean style diet, because it may help increase the chances of successful pregnancy and successful live birth.

The researchers did note that when it comes to conceiving a baby, diet and lifestyle are just as important for men as for women. Previous studies from the same research group showed that male partners that adhered to the same sort had better semen quality.

A healthy diet is important for all couples prior to trying to conceive and should be a part of any preconception planning by all healthcare practitioners assisting couples with fertility. While this study focussed on improving assisted reproduction pregnancy rates, this style of diet should be adopted by any couple wanting to have a baby and should be implemented at least 6 months prior to conceiving. This is why it is essential for all couples to receive counselling and guidance on the importance of a healthy diet and having a healthy lifestyle as well. This is a foundation of my fertility program that has helped over 12,500 babies into the world and continues to help many more couples reach their goal of becoming parents.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

-The Brisbane Baby Maker

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Retina 20 07 2016

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Zinc Deficiency Affects Egg Quality and Early Stages of Egg Development

A new study shows that zinc deficiency can negatively affect the early stages of egg development, reducing the ability of the egg cells to divide and be fertilised. This may affect fertility “months” in the future and why preconception planning is so important for a couple. The researchers will be presenting their results at the American Physiological Society annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2018 in San Diego.

Millions of couples around the world struggle with fertility issues and the ability to conceive a child. While there are many factors that can make conception difficult, ovulation disorders and sperm issues are a leading cause of couples not being able to conceive. Researchers are finally looking into how vitamins, amino acids and micronutrients affect fertility and in particular the early stages of egg development.

The availability of micronutrients, through diet, amino acids, antioxidants and vitamin supplements, in the ovarian environment and their influence on the development, viability and quality of egg cells is now the focus of a growing area of research. Sperm also need micronutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients for optimal growth and development too. This is nothing new to me as this is something I have always focussed on for many years as part my fertility program and as a part of preconception planning and making sure that the couple are in optimal health before trying to conceive.

In human and mammals, the ovary is made up of thousands of structures called follicles, which consist of one oocyte surrounded by layers of support cells, known as somatic cells. At puberty, the body starts to prepare groups of oocytes for maturation, ovulation and fertilization. While a female grows groups of oocytes, which begin to mature each month, only one will be ovulated and have the chance of being fertilized. Many things can influence whether an oocyte will mature correctly and the go on to one day be ovulated, including the presence of sufficient levels of certain micronutrients. To date this has probably been poorly understood by many.

Scientists have recently found more and more evidence to show that zinc is a key player in oocyte development and have been assessing the effects of zinc on egg development extremely early on in the development and maturation of oocytes.

Previously Fertility research and treatment has primarily focused on the larger follicles, called antral follicles, which respond to signals from the pituitary gland to be ovulated. In humans, preantral follicles have to keep growing for about 90 days before they are ready to ovulate. This is why it is important to focus on egg and sperm quality months before conception is to take place, because this is when both egg and sperm are still growing and maturing and need vital nutrients to develop properly.

In this new research they have examined the smaller preantral follicles, which are still growing and don’t respond to the ovulatory signal yet. Previous studies showed that zinc levels are critical in the antral follicle, but no one had tested the effect of zinc deficiency on preantral follicle growth.

The researchers collected preantral follicles and then matured them in a special cell culture medium. They compared eggs matured in a zinc deficient environment to those grown with normal levels of zinc. The researchers found that preantral zinc deficiency:

  • Impaired the egg cell’s ability to properly divide (meiosis), which is a necessary step before successful fertilization can occur.
  • Led to smaller and more immature egg cells early in development
  • Hindered and disrupted growth of the cells
  • Caused problems with development of somatic cells and elevated certain cell markers.

The new research shows that zinc plays an important role in oocyte growth at an earlier stage than previously investigated, which is during development and before division. The research also showed why preconception nutrients are needed months before the eggs fully develop to give the best outcomes for a healthy pregnancy.

It is estimated that about 17 percent of the global population may be deficient in zinc, due to poor dietary intake their diet. But the estimate may not include cases of marginal zinc deficiency, where people may be getting zinc in their diet, but not enough for their recommended levels. People that are more susceptible to zinc deficiency are those with dietary and disease factors such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, gastrointestinal disorders and liver disease, those with eating disorders, those with certain dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians or vegans, who may not then be taking supplemental zinc.

Preconception planning, care and management is so important for a healthy pregnancy to occur and should start months before trying to conceive. This is to ensure that the sperm are in optimal health and quality and also to make sure that the egg quality is optimal and in the best quality it can be as well. This is what I do for all my fertility patients and is a crucial part in the high success of my fertility program that has now helped over 12,500 babies into the world.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

-The International Baby Maker

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Normal 20 07 2016

Weeding Out Endometriosis

Explaining endometriosis to people is not always easy and sometimes you have to use analogies that seem strange at first, but once you get the gist of where I am going with it, it will all make sense. But before I start, I always like to say that please take the personal out of things and just know that what ever analogy I use, it is with good intention and always about helping others.

I just know that when I used the “Endo is like Rust” analogy, which is what it is like, a few people took it to heart as though they had a rusty uterus and this is what I was saying. Not so. Please know that I have loved ones with this horrible disease, so I am here to help, and my main aim now is to help as many people as possible with what I know, and how to treat people properly. I am also about getting the message out there so that women to not have to remain silent about this disease any longer. My motto is, and always will be, “Period Pain is Not Normal”

So, sit back, take out the personal and know that I am writing from a place of caring and sharing and a place of getting the message out there to help you all. Sometimes you just have to tell it how it is, in order for people to sit up and listen, so here we go J

Many of you have read my article of “Rust Never Sleeps and Neither Does Endometriosis” and the reason I wrote this is because endometriosis and how it attacks the body, is very much like how rust attacks metal. If you haven’t read the article, please do so that you can see what I am trying to convey.

Recently I have been doing lots of speaking events and seminars on Women’s Health and also presenting for workshops on Endometriosis. It is so great to get the message out to the world, so that both the public and healthcare professionals can be educated on this subject. We need to stop having this disease “Missed” and women being “Dismissed” as I am always saying now. This disease should not be taking 8 years from onset to definitive diagnosis. It used to be 12 years. This is disgusting, to say the least, and there is no excuse for this to be happening, except poor education, sloppy diagnosis, lack of training, negligence and dismissive egos that need an attitude adjustment.

But, in saying that, we also need to teach women to be empowered and not just put up with being told “This is normal”, or “Just go on the pill and it will fix it”. That is bullshit (sorry). But it is true. There needs to be a better way and we need to stand up and say “Enough”. But we also need to not let the disease define you and get caught up in the blame game either. We also need to get people to stop “Dr Googling” too, as this is also spreading the misinformation. It is great to be educated, but good old “Dr Google” is full of false information and research shows that up to 75% of the health information that the public can access on google, is either wrong, or only partially true.

Now that I have had my little rant about the injustices of many, I would like to share what I have been sharing to others about what endometriosis is really like and how hopefully we can prevent it from returning, hopefully for good. I do know this is possible with the right care, right follow up treatments and right team of people helping. I see it daily and know what I share to be true. But, again it requires the person to follow the advice given and then to get the information out there. It also requires people to not be defined by their disease and break free from these chains to open their minds to the possibilities of new thought, new treatments and new ways of doing things. We need to not be caught up in what may cause the disease, but what we can do to help those with it now.

Of course prevention is crucial and so important, but once the disease is expressed in the body, what caused it is irrelevant. We can argue about the hypothesis of what may be the initial causal factor until the end of time, but that isn’t helping those with the disease now. The most important factor is how we can help those with it live a normal life and hopefully be free of the disease completely. At least we can look at hopefully giving people a better quality of life than the one they are living each day. From my experience, I do know that this is possible with the right team of people working the help the individual.

To be honest, the most likely cause of this disease is now known to be genetic links, or chromosomal, most likely through the parental mode of inheritance. Gene therapy is probably going to provide the biggest breakthrough in this disease in the years to come. But like any breakthrough, we just have to wait and see what happens there. You heard it here first. I do believe genetics does play a big part, but like any disease, it is not the only contributing factor. But, all this aside, we need to focus on the here and now to help those who need help now. In order to make change, you need to make those changes required. If you change nothing, nothing will change. I also get how hard it is for those whom have suffered so long to pick themselves up, to make those changes. Believe me, as someone who has been through a major life threatening illness and pain and crawled their way back to good health and do what I do now, I get it. I’ve been to that point of wanting it all to just stop and I get what many women put up with on a daily basis. Pain is pain, no matter where it has stemmed from.

Getting back to the subject at hand, I have now been explaining that Endometriosis is like a weed. Why would I explain it like this?

Like a weed, endometriosis grows and spreads. You can physically remove the weed (surgical), but unless you control the regrowth, seeds have been dropped (endometriosis regrowth) and then the weeds pop up again and start to grow once more. Sound like endometriosis too you?

Like any weed, it needs certain things for its regrowth. We have just talked about the dropping of the seeds ( regrowth) but it needs a food and fuel source to make it grow (estrogens, insulin, inflammatory response from external factors, stress etc). Then once the seeds are fed, the regrowth continues and then the garden is infested with the weed plague once more. Then you need to try and physically removed the weeds again once more and so the cycle begins again. Are you seeing what I am getting at yet?

Just like these weeds, endometriosis is often removed and many people then either believe they are fixed, or they do not do anything post surgery to prevent that regrowth. Before they know it, they again have to go back for more surgery. Often when people to control the regrowth (Progestins, Mirena etc), they are only employing one method, for which is either not effective enough, or the weed (Endo) is now resistant too.

This is why we need to employ a multimodality approach post surgery to hopefully complete eradicate the weed regrowth and halt the life cycle of these seeds being spread and to start growing again, thus starting the horrible cycle all over again

Now that we can see how endometriosis is really like a weed that can spread throughout our garden, we need to look at what we can do to hopefully stop it coming back, or spreading into other parts of the body.

Like I said, treatment must be individualised, using a multimodality approach, taking the clinical problem in its entirety into account, including the impact of the disease and the effect of its treatment on quality of life. Pain symptoms may persist despite seemingly adequate medical and/or surgical treatment of the disease.

The real focus needs to be on prevention and treatment strategies post surgery. Even better still, lets prevent it before it starts

There is an ancient Chinese saying – “To try and treat a disease once it is fully expressed into the body is like trying to forge arms once a war has already started, or like trying to dig a well once you are already thirsty – Yellow Emperors Classics of Internal Medicine”

The same goes for endometriosis. Once the disease is there and expressed into the body, it is hard to treat, especially is known methods of treatment are failing and this individualised, multimodality approach is used.

A Multimodality Approach Needs To Include:

  • Surgery
  • Pain Management
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Counselling
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Exercise
  • Pilates/Yoga
  • Changes to Diet
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Holistic Medicine
  • Anything people have tried and has worked for them

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologist guidelines for the “Investigations and Management of Endometriosis” have the following quote:

“Many women with endometriosis report that nutritional and complementary therapies such as homeopathy, reflexology, traditional Chinese medicine or herbal treatments, do improve pain symptoms. They should not be ruled out if the woman feels they could be beneficial for her overall pain management and/or quality of life, or work in conjunction with more modern medical therapies.

This is why it is vital to take careful note of the woman’s complaints and to give her time to express her concerns and anxieties, as with other chronic diseases, just as I do for all of my patients. Healthcare providers actually need to listen to the woman and her concerns. Women need to be listened to and be heard and be nurtured

It is also important to involve the woman in all decisions, to be flexible in diagnostic and therapeutic thinking, to maintain a good relationship with the woman and for healthcare providers to seek advice where appropriate from more experienced colleagues. This is something that I try to educate all my patients with and something I also try to educate healthcare providers with when I do my seminars and speaking events about Women’s Health issues and diseases like endometriosis.

But while there are thing that healthcare providers need to do, there also things you must do also. These include

  • Reducing Stress
  • Look at Emotions and How They Affect You
  • Exercise
  • Get “You Time”
  • Eat more protein and less High GI Carbs
  • Eat less process and package foods that we now call “Carbage”
  • Loss some weight if you have excess fats (which spike estrogens)
  • Gain some weight if you are underweight.
  • Do Something You Love (At least once per week)
  • Laugh Often (Even if some days you feel like crying)
  • Spend Time With Friends and Loved Ones
  • Make Love J ( Climax and Oxytocin are your friends)
  • Do Not Let The Disease Define You
  • Don’t Buy Into The Label
  • You are more than this disease
  • If something is helping, then continue with it, no matter what anyone tells you
  • Just remember that “You” are uniquely “You”

Please remember these words :

  • Do Not Let The Disease Define You
  • Don’t Buy Into The Label
  • You are more than this disease
  • If something is helping, then continue with it, no matter what anyone tells you
  • Don’t buy into everything you read on the internet, social media, or “Dr Google. To be honest, I ban “Dr Google” with my patient (haha)
  • Make sure you have a good laugh each day, but remember it is also OK to have a good cry too
  • It is OK to unplug every so often
  • It is OK to take the “Superwoman” cape off every so often too.
  • Remember “You” are uniquely “You”

This is why it is so important to not get caught up in what others have done, or tried and may not now be working for you either. We need to look at you as an individual and treat you as such. What works for one person, may not work for another. This is why an individualised multimodality approach is needed to help prevent and treat this horrible disease and we often need a team of people, on the same page, to help treat this properly.

Don’t forget to “Get A Second Opinion”, or a Third, or Fourth, or Tenth one if needed

In many other areas in life we will get multiple quotes, and opinions. Yet, when it comes to our health, we often only get one quote, or maybe two.

Just because someone has your history, or is nice to you, or maybe recommended by a friend etc, does not make them a good practitioner. It does not mean that you cannot get another opinion. If someone isn’t helping you, then you need to look at changing, no matter who they are, or how well they know your history. Not every specialist you see is a good surgeon either, so please remember this. You need to have someone who specialises in endometriosis and who has done advanced surgical training, not just minimal training. There is good and bad in every profession and the medical profession is not exempt from this either. Neither is the complementary medicine profession, or allied health care profession exempt from this either. Your health is important and so is the value of another opinion. Not every practitioner has all the answers. If someone isn’t helping you, then don’t be scared to change.

Lastly please remember to know that there is always help out there. I am always here to help and I am a specialist in this area, alongside many other Women’s Health issues and Gynaecological issues. You can always come and see me in person, or make an appointment via skype, for those who live at a distance. I have a great team of people I work with to give you the best help possible. I have a team of some of the best health care professionals there is and I make sure all of them are at the top of their game in their chosen profession.

Let me be the conductor of your health issues and help you get the treatment and advice you so desperately deserve. I am here to listen to you and hear you. I make sure you don’t have things “Missed” and aren’t “Dismissed “ and why my treatment motto is “Leaving No Stone Unturned”. I am out there as a voice for women and being a crusader for women’s health everywhere. I don’t mind stepping on a few toes, and ego’s to get you the best help possible J

Take care and remember that “Period Pain Is Not Normal” and neither are and other “Menstrual Irregularities” that women face on a daily basis. I know what you go through daily and I am out there making sure you all get heard. Let’s end the silence on this horrible disease for you, and the ones close to me whom I love, adore and care about also J

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist

“The Brisbane Baby Maker” & “Women’s Health and Endometriosis Crusader”

Helping you with Women’s Health & Reproductive Issues

Girl Taking Medication

Could You Be Suffering With Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammatory bladder condition in which there is persisting chronic pelvic pain, urinary frequency and urgency, bladder pain or pressure, and it can also resemble the symptoms of a urinary tract infection, but there will be no infection present. The pain can range from being mild to severe.

Worldwide Interstitial Cystitis affects up to 100 million people and it can affect both men and women, regardless of age. IC is also known as painful bladder syndrome (PBS), bladder pain syndrome (BPS) and chronic pelvic pain (CPP)

Women with interstitial cystitis may experience many of the same symptoms as those with endometriosis. Women can have both Interstitial Cystitis and endometriosis at the same time. Some people with IC may also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Fibromyalgia and other pain syndromes

People with IC have chronic symptoms in the urinary tract that last more than 6 weeks in duration. Infection has not been identified as a cause of IC. Physical and emotional stress can worsen the symptoms of IC.

Interstitial Cystitis can cause the following symptoms:

  • Chronic pelvic pain that lasts 6 months or more
  • Symptoms affected by the menstrual cycle
  • Pain, pressure, discomfort or unpleasant sensation that may worsen as the bladder fills
  • Urinating often alleviates the pain and may give a temporary sense of relief;
  • Suprapubic pain or discomfort
  • Pelvic pain (lower abdominal pain), sometimes extending to the lower part of the back, the groin and thighs
  • In women there may be pain in the vagina and vulva
  • In men, pain in the penis, testicles, scrotum and perineum
  • Both men and women may have pain in the urethra and rectum
  • Pain with sexual intercourse in both men and women (dyspareunia)
  • Pain on ejaculation in men
  • Pain may worsen with specific foods or drinks
  • A frequent need to urinate (frequency), including at night (night-time frequency or nocturia)
  • An often urgent or compelling need to urinate (urgency)

The pain may be experienced as discomfort or tenderness or irritation or burning sensation in the bladder, in the form of spasms in or around the bladder, or stabbing or burning vaginal pain or simply a feeling of pressure on or in the bladder or a feeling of fullness even when there is only a little urine in the bladder.

In many people, the pain is relieved temporarily by urination, while other people may also feel strong pain following urination.

The pain or discomfort may be constant or intermittent. It may also be felt throughout the pelvic floor, including the lower bowel system and rectum. In some patients the pain may be very severe and debilitating.

Other people, particularly in the early stages, may have milder frequency with/without urgency and without a true sensation of pain. What they may experience, however, is a feeling of heaviness, fullness, discomfort or pressure.

Diagnosis

During the evaluation of potential IC, several tests may be completed to make a diagnosis. These tests may include taking a full medical history, completing a bladder diary, pelvic examination, including a neurological exam and urinalysis to rule out or diagnose an infection

Other diagnostic tests that can be carried out include:

Cystoscopy: This is performed inserting a tube, with a camera attached, into the bladder to evaluate the lining and to look for inflammation and signs of disease. A specialist may also evaluate the bladder capacity with a cystoscopy.

Urodynamics: The bladder is filled to test its capacity by measuring the pressure during filling and voiding. These tests evaluate the function of the bladder, urethra, and sphincter muscles.

Biopsy: During a cystoscopy, a biopsy may or may not be taken to rules out cancer or other inflammatory bladder conditions that can cause pain similar to IC.

Potassium sensitivity test: This is a test in which potassium and water are instilled into the bladder. In healthy bladders, pain is not felt with either solution. In cases of IC, however, pain is typically experienced when the potassium is instilled.

Diet

People with IC may be sensitive to certain foods and beverages. There is a range of items a person may need to excluded from their diet after receiving an IC diagnosis. This will be different for each individual but there are certain foods and drinks that an individual with IC should be aware of potentially needing to avoid. There are food and drinks such as:

  • tea and coffee
  • Soft drinks and soda (including diet drinks)
  • alcohol
  • citrus, citrus drinks and cranberry
  • artificial sweeteners
  • spicy food

Some people with IC may need to a food elimination diet over several weeks to see which specific foods and drinks may be exacerbating their symptoms. There are many foods that do not have an irritating effect on the bladder and contain vital nutrients to help fight disease. This is why elimination diets and specific dietary requirements need to be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

People with IC should also give up smoking if they are a smoker, as the chemicals can affect this condition too.

Treatment

The treatment of interstitial cystitis is complex and needs a multimodality approach to treat it effectively. It may require treatments such as:

  • Urodynamic Therapies
  • Physiotherapy with a specialised pelvic floor physiotherapist
  • Pelvic Floor Therapy (Kegels, Yoni eggs, Ba Wen Balls, internal TENS)
  • Surgery, including laser surgery
  • Neuromodulators, such as electrical nerve stimulators
  • Injections, such as Nerves blocks, Antispasmodics and Botox therapy
  • Pain medications- including narcotics, NSAIDS, Anti-inflammatories,
  • Hormone therapy, both oral and intravaginal
  • Antidepressants
  • Acupuncture
  • Pilates and Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Herbal Medicines, including Chinese Herbal Medicines
  • Amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants
  • Sex Therapy and counselling
  • Mindfulness
  • Adopting health sleeping habits

Your specialist or healthcare provider will discuss the best forms of treatment for your individual case. People with IC should also be referred to a Urodynamic and Pelvic Floor Specialist who specialises in this area.

Complications

Complications from IC can vary between individuals and why there is no one treatment fix all approach to this conditions. IC can affect a person life on so many levels. It can affect their bladder volume, their quality of life, their sex life, their libido and have an affect on sexual intimacy and it can also cause them emotional distress. It is a complex condition that can affect every aspect of a person’s life both physically and mentally and why a multimodality treatment approach is needed.

Causes

The exact cause of IC is not known, but there are several theories as to what triggers the condition. Some possible causes include:

  • Damage due to previous surgery
  • Defects in the lining of the urinary bladder that cause irritation
  • Overstretching of the bladder due to trauma
  • Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Spinal cord trauma
  • Genetics
  • Allergy

IC is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects many people world wide. It cannot be fully cured and requires close clinical management and care. A multimodality treatment approach needs to be adopted that is suited to the individual. When this is done properly, people with IC can still have a good quality of life.

Recommended treatment usually involves diet and lifestyle changes, stopping smoking, drinking less before bedtime, and scheduling planned toilet breaks to ensure the bladder does not get too full.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Normal 20 07 2016

 

belly 2473 1920

Women with PCOS May Be at More Risk of Uterine Cancer

April 3, 2018 Researchers in the United Arab Emirates (UEA) have found that women who have Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome have an increased risk of uterine cancer, reducing their chances of fertility.

The researchers have also found that women, who are overweight, or obese, are also at increased risk of uterine cancer. Being overweight and obese also increases a woman’s chances of PCOS too, but not all women with PCOS are overweight.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute last year has shown that  endometrial cancer diagnoses have increased in 26 of 43 countries, mainly due to increasing obesity cases which themselves have tripled in the last 40 years, according to World Health Organisation.

The experts believe that obese women are 10 times more likely to suffer from uterine cancer. Being overweight, or obese also puts women at risk of other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

There are other factors involves such as an imbalance in the hormones with over-exposure to estrogens can lead to endometrial cancer. This could be due to endogenous causes such as Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome, or exogenous causes such as unopposed estrogens in menopausal hormone therapy if progesterone is not prescribed.

Some women may have genetic family syndromes that is predispose to uterine cancer along with breast, ovarian and other cancers. The causes of uterine cancer may be multifactorial, but this new research does help with screening of women who are suffering from PCOS, or who maybe overweight, or obese.

The researchers did find that regular exercise and healthy lifestyle choices can serve as a protection against uterine cancer, but can also help with PCOS and obesity.

The researchers did warn that women in reproductive years should not take symptoms of endometrial cancer lightly, since early diagnosis and treatment is an essential key to fertility preservation.

Once a condition that only affected women of advanced years, increasing clinical evidence now suggests that even women below 40 years of age can be diagnosed with uterine cancer.

The cancer cases are on the rise due to higher incidence of known co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes mellitus and hypertension.

Symptoms of the endometrial cancer include:

  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • bleeding after menopause
  • an abnormal, watery or blood-tinged discharge from vagina
  • constant back and pelvic pain
  • unintended weight loss
  • fatigue and nausea

Early screening is essential and women can safely consider fertility preservation provided that the cancer is diagnosed in early stages.

Fact around uterine cancer

  • Early diagnosis of uterine cancer can save women from fertility loss
  • World over, an increasing number of women in reproductive years falling prey to the disease
  • Obese women are 10 times more likely to suffer from endometrial/uterine cancer, other causes include hypertension and diabetes
  • PCOS may now be a risk factor for uterine cancer

Women who have PCOS, or who are overweight, should be seeking help with dietary and lifestyle management to help prevent them from other risk factors such as certain cancers. The number one treatment for PCOS is changing to a low GI diet and doing regular exercise. One of the major causes of PCOS is insulin resistance and this is a big factor in many who are overweight, or obese, or have type 2 diabetes. All of these issues can be controlled with the right management.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Normal 20 07 2016

 

Banishing Headaches and Migraines

A multi-modality approach was one of the best ways I found to help Headaches & Migraines

Many years ago I used to suffer lot of debilitating migraines and headaches. Actually if I did get a headache, I was thankful because that was never as bad as a migraine, that could make you bed ridden with a head feeling like ten hangovers accompanied with the vomiting and light sensitivity. Even when the migraine had subsided I still felt washed out and like a train had run over me. Thankfully I haven’t had a migraine for many years and all thanks to a combination of chiropractic, acupuncture and diet and lifestyle changes.

Like many migraine and headache sufferers, mine were most likely caused by a neck injury, or whip lash, along with blocked sinuses. Current research shows that most headaches and migraines have a neck injury or neck complaint as a predisposing factor. Some neck injuries could go back to childhood or even a traumatic birth and you might not even know about it.

While neck related issues seem to be a major cause, there are many other contributing factors such as poor diet and lifestyle habits. Too many high GI carbohydrate foods and highly refined foods that interfere with blood sugars, can also cause headaches and migraine. Certain chemicals and additives in foods can also exacerbate headaches and migraines too. Let’s not forget how alcohol can be a big factor in headaches and migraines too.

Lack of fluids and inadequate hydration can also be a big cause of headaches and migraines too. While water is important to hydrate us, water alone is not enough. We need to make sure we get electrolytes into us as well. These need to be proper electrolytes, not lolly water such as sports drinks such as gatorade and powerade.

An imbalance of hormones, or hormonal surges, can also cause headaches and migraines and can be a big problem for women around the time of their menstrual cycle.

One other area that is overlooked is that the sinuses are inflamed or blocked and the associated inflammation and blockage is causing pressure and pain and causing headaches and migraines. This is a big one for many people and sadly, all too often, it is overlooked. A simple CT scan of the paranasal sinuses can see if the sinus cavity is blocked. If the sinus cavity is blocked by polypoid disease, or obstruction, it may require surgical intervention.

Lastly the biggest headache producer of all….STRESS!

Stress will tighten up those shoulder and neck muscles and then constrict all the blood flow to the head and the next thing you know it is headache and migraine city.

Whichever way you look at it, headaches are caused from an imbalance in the body and need to be rectified. Unfortunately too many people use the band aid treatment of painkillers to try and deal with the mighty headache or migraine. Nobody can argue with the painkilling properties of a dose of panadeine forte or a pethidine injection. I’d had many a trip to the doctor to get a shot in the behind. It was either that, or my head felt like it was about to explode. Worse still the pain often gets that bad that dying would be a relief. Well, that’s how it seemed anyway. I’m sure anyone who has suffered a really bad migraine wouldn’t have minded ending it all to get out of pain.

The only problem with painkillers, is they really don’t look at fixing the cause of the problem. Not only that, all painkillers have long term side effects that can be very bad for your health and some medication can be very addictive.

Like any health problem you have to look at treating the cause and not just the symptoms. A headache or migraine is actually the symptom of a much bigger cause. The problem for most people is that they only treat this problem symptomatically or seek help when they get a migraine or headache. It is the good old band aid approach to health care.

So how do you treat headaches and migraines and try and prevent them from coming back?

The answer as I’ve said is using a multimodality approach use the ancient wonders of Acupuncture, the more modern practices of Chiropractic and addressing dietary and lifestyle changes. Of course any other medically related issues need to be ruled out too. Like any health related condition, the management of headaches and migraines require a series of treatments to fix this problem, not a one off when you are experiencing a headache or migraine. Unfortunately I used to be one of those people who only do something about my headaches and migraines when I was suffering one. This was until I learnt that if I had regular treatments while I didn’t have a headache, then the practitioners could get to the bottom of the cause of my problems and prevent a migraine from happening. I wish I’d learnt that lesson sooner.

You will also need to address any dietary, hormonal and lifestyle issues that may be also exacerbating, or causing your headaches and migraines too. You also need to rule out any medically related issues as well and this can be done alongside other treatment modalities at the same time.  This is how I now treat people and why I use a multimodality approach to assist people and give them the best results.

Just like many people have a misconception about getting Acupuncture, because they have a fear of needles or it may hurt, many people have misconception of Chiropractic. For one, just like acupuncture, it doesn’t hurt. and two, it isn’t about cracking bones. No bones are cracked, only gently realigned by expertly trained doctors whom have spent 5 years at university to do so. Before your first treatment, a good practitioner will usually take a series of x-rays to evaluate what needs to be done before ever adjusting the body. This way the practitioner can accurately and precisely pin point the exact cause of your particular problem. Just like with any healthcare professional, a series of questions is asked to get precise evaluation of the overall cause of your particular issue and then only after a treatment plan formulated, is the patient actually treated. Just like Chinese medicine, chiropractic looks at he cause of the problem to treat the symptoms. This is why they go so well together.

When I finally did get my headaches and migraines sorted, I found that it was a combination of acupuncture, chiropractic, diet and lifestyle changes that gave me the best results. This is why to this day that I firmly believe that with any health condition, headaches and migraines included, that a multimodality treatment approach is the only way to go. All of this can be done alongside medical treatment options as well. Of course the cause of migraines and headaches are different for each individual and this is why individual assessment and management protocols are needed for each person. This is why people need to see an appropriate healthcare professional and not try to manage headaches and migraines on their own.

If you need help with Headaches and Migraines, give our clinic a call and let’s assist you with getting the help that you so desperately need.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Specialist)

-Women’s & Men’s Health Advocate

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Womens Health Consultations 1

Women’s Health Consultations with Dr Andrew Orr

Are you sick of Painful Periods?

Are you tired of the flares from Endometriosis?

Are you getting pain with sex?

Is your period irregular and messing with your life?

Are you getting bad acne?

Are you getting increased bladder frequency?

Are you getting some incontinence with exercise?

Are you sick of having to put up with mood swings and hormone imbalance?

Sick of being “Missed” and “Dismissed” by healthcare professionals and friends telling you that your symptoms are normal?

Are you just not getting the answers to your health and gynaecological issues?

Do you just want to get your quality of life back and be able to do everything you want to do in life?

Getting Help

Many of the health and reproductive issues women face are not normal, but more importantly many of issues can be managed and assisted with right treatments and management protocols. The problem for most women, is knowing who to see, and where to start, for Women’s Health Consultations on the journey to a better life and better health.

Let Dr Andrew Orr Guide You Through Your Health Journey

Dr Andrew Orr’s is a Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist whose multi-modality treatment approach (using medical science and complementary medicines) has assisted and helped over 12,500 plus babies into the world and helped and assisted tens of thousands of women with gynaecological conditions such as Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, PCOS, Fibroids, Bladder & Bowel Issues, Pelvic floor instability and so much more.

Dr Orr has a special interest in conditions such as period pain, endometriosis, PCOS and menstrual irregularities. You can find out more on some of his social media articles.

If you need someone who cares, someone who listens and someone who specialises in Women’s Health Medicine & Reproductive Medicine issues, and can be your caring guide every step of the way through the challenges you are facing, then you need to book in a consultation with Dr Andrew Orr.

Dr Andrew Orr’s mottos are the “Period Pain IS NOT Normal” and he has a “No Stone Left Unturned” approach to every person he guides, manages and assists through their journey to a better quality life and better health.

Dr Andrew Orr has seen women from all over Australia and all over the world and can see you for a consultation in person, or through online services. Through easy to use online services, Dr Orr can now see anyone from all over Australia, or anywhere in the world. *(conditions may apply)

If you are suffering from a particular women’s health condition, or unknown health issue, Dr Andrew Orr is here to care for you and guide you through his step by step multimodality health management protocols and get you the help and care that you are so desperately needing.

* To find more please call Dr Andrew Orr’s clinic, or submit an online enquiry through the website.

 

 

What causes a burning sensation in the vagina and around the vulva?

A burning sensation in and around the vaginal, vulva area is a relatively common complaint that many women experience and something that is seen in practice very often. There are so many different causes of vaginal and vulva burning, including irritants, sexually transmitted diseases, atrophic vaginitis, thrush, lichen sclerosis, climates changes and is very common in peri-menopause and the menopause period. Each of the causes has its own set of symptoms and the treatments can all vary, depending what the cause it.

In this article we will look at the common causes of having a burning sensation in the vagina and around the vulva area. We will also look at treatments and management of these as well.

Before we start, it is important that women know that often people use the wrong term for the vagina and the surrounding area and often refer to a woman’s genitals as just being the vagina. It is important that we use the correct terms for a woman’s anatomy so that we can correctly identify were problems are.

The vagina is more the internal part of the female genitals and the vulva is the external part. Th Vulva is an umbrella term for the various parts of the external female genitals. These parts include:

  • Mons pubis – the fatty ‘pad’ that’s covered in pubic hair
  • Labia majora – outer lips
  • Labia minora – inner lips
  • Clitoris – small organ that’s packed with nerve endings
  • Urethral opening – which allows the passage of urine
  • Vestibule – area around the opening of the vagina
  • Perineum – area between the vagina and anus

Now that we understand the proper terms for the anatomy, lets have a look at what some of the common causes of burning sensation are.

Common causes of vaginal and vulva burning sensation

1.Skin Irritation

There are many things that can irritate the skin of the vulva and vagina when they come into direct contact with it. This is known as contact dermatitis.

Irritants that can cause contact dermatitis, inflammation and burning symptoms include non pH neutral soaps, certain fabrics, perfumes, vaginal hygiene sprays, some lubricants and allergens. As well as burning sensations, women may experience the following:

  • severe itching
  • redness and rawness and sometimes bleeding
  • stinging feelings and sensations of heat
  • pain and sometimes

The main way to treat irritation is to avoid whatever has caused the irritation in the first place. Avoiding the irritant and allowing the inflamed area and the skin to heal is one of the best things to do. Sometimes, a woman may require medications to settle the inflammation, or dermatitis down.

2. Candidiasis (Thrush, Yeast infections)

An overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vagina can lead to a burning, stinging sensation and one of the common causes of issues for women. Candidiasis, or thrush is very common in women and is causes through changes in the gut and vaginal flora and this then leads to overgrowth of bacteria, which causes many of the following symptoms

  • itching
  • soreness
  • pain during sex
  • pain or discomfort when urinating
  • discharge from the vagina (either white, or coloured)

Women are more likely to be prone to getting thrush if they are taking antibiotics, using certain form of hormones and contraceptives, have a weakened immune system, live in humid climates, have diabetes, are pregnant, or not cleaning themselves properly. High stress can also lead to changes in the gut and vagina flora and this can also lead to thrush.

Thrush is usually an antifungal medicine called azoles. Azoles can either be used internally into the vagina, or taken orally as a capsule, or both at the same time. Pre and Probiotics should be taken to help build up the good bacteria and women should take care with personal hygiene. Partners may also need to be treated to prevent further reintroduction of thrush via sexual intercourse.

3. UTI- Urinary tract infection

When a woman has a urinary tract infection (UTI), she will be likely to feel burning in and around the vagina when urinating. There may be other presenting symptoms such as:

  • needing to urinate more frequently, or have urgency to urinate
  • pain with urination
  • smelly, or cloudy urine
  • blood in urine
  • pain in lower stomach and radiating pain into the back and kidney area
  • feeling tired or unwell

When a woman has a urinary tract infection antibiotics will be needed and the antibiotics needed will depend on what the cause of the infection is. Usually an infection will clear up in around 5 days after starting a course of antibiotics.Repeat medication may be required if an infection returns.

4. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women aged 15 to 44. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a condition that occurs when there is too much of certain kinds of bad bacteria in the vagina, affecting the balance of good bacteria and flora. One of the main symptoms of BV is a burning sensation in the vagina, which can also occur when urinating.

BV does not always cause symptoms but when it does cause symptoms, besides a burning sensation, it can cause the following:

  • white or gray vaginal discharge
  • pain and irritation
  • itching and redness
  • strong fish-like odor, especially after sex (one of the key symptoms)

Having BV can increase a woman’s risk of STI’s and it can also increase her risk of miscarriage, once she is pregnant. If you think that you may have the symptoms of BV, you need to have it check by your doctor as soon as possible. BV is usually treated with antibiotics and you can use complementary medicines to assist in the treatment as well. It is a good idea to restore the good bacteria into the gut and vagina as well. This can be done through the use of prebiotic and probiotic bacteria combined.

5. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a common STI and is caused by a parasite that is passed from one person to another during sexual intercourse. Many people may not know that have Trichomoniasis, but symptoms can present with a burning sensation and may  also present with  the following:

  • itching, redness, or soreness
  • discomfort when urinating
  • women can have vaginal discharge that can be clear, white, yellow, or green and with a fishy smell

Trichomoniasis can increase a woman’s risk of miscarriage, so it need to be treated asap. Trichomoniasis is treated by using certain forms of medicines called azoles.

6. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an sexually transmitted infection where bacteria called Neisseria gonorrheae infect mucous membranes, such as the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. If a woman is infected with gonorrhoea she can experience vaginal burning when urinating, as well as the following symptoms:

  • pain when urinating
  • vaginal discharge
  • vaginal bleeding between periods

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right medical treatment and it needs to be treated with specific medications. Often dual forms of medication are used for effective treatment.

7. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a common STI caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and is  transmitted through sexual intercourse with someone who has the infection.

If a woman comes in contact with chlamydia through intercourse, many times she may be asymptomatic (meaning no symptoms) and this is why it is often known as a silent infection. When symptoms do occur it can cause a burning sensation in the vagina and surrounding area. There can be other symptoms which include:

  • increased vaginal discharge
  • pain with urination and pain during sex
  • bleeding during sex and between periods

Chlamydia can cause damage to a woman’s reproductive organs and can affect her fertility, so it is important to have this treated as soon as possible.  Chlamydia is treated using specific high dose antibiotics. Treatment may also require IV antibiotics and for someone to be admitted to hospital while these are being administered.

8. Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by skin-to-skin contact with a person with the herpes virus. Once a person has the virus, it stays with them for life. Sometimes the virus can remain dormant and then at certain stages of life (during stress, illness etc), it can become active and start producing symptoms.

If the virus becomes active, they might experience a burning sensation in the vagina, along with some of the following symptoms:

  • an itching or tingling sensation
  • flu-like symptoms
  • swollen glands
  • pain in the vaginal area, particularly when urinating
  • change in vaginal discharge

Painful sores, blisters, or ulcers may also develop after a few days. The symptoms of genital herpes can be treated with antiviral medication but once you have herpes, it cannot be cured. You just need to manage it and its symptoms.

9. Lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a skin condition that affects the vulva area in women. Lichen sclerosus can cause burning sensation around the vulva area. It can also cause the following symptoms:

  • itching and tenderness.
  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Wrinkling and white patches

Postmenopausal women are most susceptible to have lichen sclerosus. The cause is thought to be an autoimmune response of some kind, since the condition is associated with autoimmune disorders such as Graves’ disease and vitiligo. Treatment includes topical steroid creams, other medications, silica cream, zinc cream and regular medical monitoring. Lichen sclerosus is linked to an increased risk of vulvar cancer.

10. Menopause

Vaginal and vulva burning can be as a result of the perimenopause, or menopause stages of life. The shifting levels of hormones in a woman’s body before she enters menopause can affect the vagina and surrounding area. Burning sensations, in the vagina and around the vulva area is one possible result of these changes, especially during sex.

Some of the common symptoms of the perimenopause/menopause period are:

  • hot flushes & night sweats
  • difficulty sleeping
  • reduced sex drive
  • vaginal dryness
  • headaches
  • mood changes
  • Pain with sex
  • Atrophic vaginitis.

Not all women entering menopause have treatment to relieve symptoms, but there are often options available that a doctor, or healthcare practitioner, can outline, including hormone therapy. There are also many natural therapies that can help during peri-menopause and menopause stages of life.

What you can do to help yourself

Many causes of vaginal burning require medical treatment. If you are concerned, the best you can do is to see your healthcare practitioner. There are things you can do before seeing your doctor. Sometimes a ice pack or cold compress to the affected area can help reduce the burning sensation. You can also try some over the counter soothing creams, or antifungals.

Make sure you are practicing proper hygiene and cleaning the outer area of the vulva properly. Women should avoid using douches, which can affect the good bacteria and internal flora of the vagina.  Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight-fitting clothes can help reduce irritation in the vaginal area. It is also important to avoid products that could irritate the area further, such as perfumed soap, scented toilet paper, and sanitary products with deodorant, or a plastic coating.

Possible complications

Some causes of vaginal burning, such as urinary tract infections, BV, STI’s, lichen sclerosis can have some serious complications if left untreated. Cancer also needs to be ruled out so this is why it is important to have any symptoms of burning checked out by your doctor.

STI’s can affect future fertility and are also harmful to women who are pregnant, as they can affect their baby, or pregnancy. Many STI’s can cause preterm delivery and also increase the risk of miscarriage.

While some causes of vaginal and vulva burning may go away on their own over time, it is still important to go and get your doctor’s advice just to be safe. If your symptoms aren’t going away, are becoming worse, or are of a concern, then the woman should go and see a doctor as soon as possible. The longer you leave something, the worse it can get and the more issues it can cause, if left untreated. Many of the cases of burning sensation in the vagina and around the vulva will be relieved once the underlying cause is treated properly and with the appropriate medicines.

While medical options will be needed for some conditions, there are complementary medicines and complementary medicine modalities that may be able to assist your particular issue, or alongside medical treatments. Please always see a qualified healthcare practitioner and not use Dr Google, or take advice from friends or family for any medical advice.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

(Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist)

-No Stone Left Unturned