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

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Normal 20 07 2016

 

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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

-No Stone Left Unturned

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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 not what I was saying. Not at all. 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.

I am always 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 better. 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 one day in the future to be free of the disease completely. At least  for now, 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 (surgically), 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 do try 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.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

No Stone Left Unturned

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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

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Normal 20 07 2016

Stop Telling Women That Period Pain is Normal

After seeing my 10th case of misdiagnosed Endometriosis this week, and goodness knows what else, I can say that I am well and truly over it and about to scream.

I am about to scream if I hear that one more woman, young or old, is told by their healthcare professional, GP, specialist, best friend, mother, facebook buddy etc, that period pain is normal.

Period pain IS NOT normal. It is far from normal and we all need to stop telling our daughters, sisters and women of this world that it is.

I think that anyone that says that need to come and work with me for a day and see the ramifications of women believing that period pain is normal, just because their doctor, healthcare professional, friend, or mother told them that it is.

I think I should post up some rather gruesome pics of women’s reproductive organs stuck together, their insides bleeding, and their pelvis completely obliterated. Yes, obliterated. That was the words that one of the surgeons used today to explain the insides of a woman that had been told that there is nothing wrong, just suck it up, scans havent found anything and just go on the pill and btw, period pain is normal

No it F#%$ing isnt (sorry for swearing but time for diplomacy is over). Women need a voice and need to be heard. Some of these poor women may not be able to have children, or have a healthy sex life, or be able to feel the pleasure of wonderful sex without pain, or ever hold their own baby, because they have been told to suck it up and be told that period pain is normal.

Period pain IS NOT normal and the sooner we get everyone to know this important fact the better. Sure, a little bit of discomfort can be normal. By that I mean just a tiny bit of pressure and basically knowing your period is about to come. But pain…. That is not normal. If you, your friend, your daughter, your sister, your wife, or any other woman you know, has to have days off work, days of school, is laying on the floor in pain, taking pain killers to get through the day, or beginning of their period, then that IS NOT normal.

Please get them to get a referral and see a good specialist who will listen to them and not dismiss them and may miss a gynaecological issue that could affect them for the rest of their lives. No… scans and blood test etc, do not always find the cause of period pain. Have a read on my other posts about this.

If you cant find someone that will listen and help, then book in a consult with me and I will help you get you properly investigated and properly managed moving forward

My motto is “No Stone Left Unturned”and my other motto is “Period pain IS NOT normal”. If you are in pain with your menses, or even any any other time during your cycle, or having pain with sex, or pain with ovulation, pain with bowel movements, pain for no known reason at all, then you need to get something done about it.

I think if I hear one more poor woman get told that Period Pain is normal, I am going to start sending those people gruesome pics of all the insides of women who have been told that period pain is normal, only to find out that it isnt and all the reasons why.

Sorry for the rant, but our daughters, our sisters, our wives, our female partners and women all over this world deserve better.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

-Period Pain IS NOT Normal

Do you suffer pain with sex? (dyspareunia)

Pain with sex, Intercourse pain, or dyspareunia, can cause problems in a woman’s life and it can be a cause of problems in couple’s sexual relationship. In addition to the physically painful sex, there is also the possibility of negative emotional effects. Then even when a woman may feel aroused and wanting sex, the fear of the pain can cause the whole process of wanting sex to stop.

How many people get Pain with Sex

It is estimated that about 20%-25% of women suffer vaginal pain with foreplay or intercourse. Pain can be acute, intermittent or chronic and can stem from a wide variety of causes that will be covered shortly. Unfortunately when women complaining of pain during sex, they are often dismissed as being inhibited, having psychiatric issues, or merely just making it up to get out of having sex. Many men would like to boast that it is them being well endowed that is causing the problem (they wish) but in fact if your partner is in pain, then you need to actually stop and listen to the reasons why. The fact is most of the time, their symptoms are related to legitimate medical issues that need to be investigated and treated accordingly. So guys, get your hand of it and start listening to your partner if she says she is getting pain.

What causes pain with Sex (Dyspareunia)?

In many cases, a woman can experience painful sex if there is not sufficient vaginal lubrication. There could be many reasons for this and one that is commonly seen in menopause. When this occurs, the pain can be resolved if the female becomes more relaxed, if the amount of foreplay is increased, or if the couple uses a sexual lubricant. Issues like this can easily be overcome, but there are some medical and gynaecological issues that could be causing the pain and being very much overlooked.

So what are the other causes of Pain with Sex

Endometriosis – This is a condition in which the endometrial like tissue (lesions) that lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can cause all sort of pain in the pelvis, bowel and rest of the body, but it can cause pain with sex. It is one of the leading conditions that does cause pain with sex. Many women with endometriosis may not have symptoms of it, or may only have one symptoms like pain with sex. Symptoms do not correlate to the extent of the disease either. Some people with small amounts get lots of pain, while others can have lots of it and have no pain. Endometriosis can only be properly diagnosed via surgery (laparoscopy)

Adenomyosis – is a condition which is very similar to endometriosis. It is a conditions in which the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus (the myometrium). Adenomyosis can cause menstrual cramps, lower abdominal pressure etc, before the menses and can result in heavy periods.  It can also cause pain with sex. The condition can be located throughout the entire uterus, or localized in one spot

Vaginismus-  This is a common condition. It involves an involuntary spasm in the vaginal muscles, which closes up the vagina and prevents penetration from happens. It is sometimes caused by fear of being hurt.

Vaginal Infections-  These conditions are common and include yeast infections such as thrush and candida and these can cause inflammation to the vagina and cause pain with sex and also localized bleeding.

Vaginal skin conditions– Dermatitis around the vulva and also a condition called Lichen Sclerosis can all cause pain with sex due to the inflammation of the skin.

Problems with the cervix (opening to the uterus). In this case, the penis can reach the cervix at maximum penetration. So problems with the cervix (such as infections) can cause pain during deep penetration.

Problems with the uterus. These problems may include polyps, cysts, fibroids etc that can cause deep intercourse pain.

Problems with the ovaries – Problems might include cysts on the ovaries, or tubal disease.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – Often referred to as penis injected disease. With PID, the tissues deep inside become badly inflamed and the pressure of intercourse causes deep pain.

Ectopic Pregnancy – This is a pregnancy in which a fertilized egg develops outside the uterus, or into the tubes. It can cause immense pain and even death if not death with properly.

Menopause- With menopause, the vaginal lining can lose its normal moisture and tone and become dry. The vagina, uterus and surrounding organs can all suffer atrophy, which can cause bleeding and pain. It can also cause prolapse.

Intercourse too soon after childbirth, or surgery – Trying to have sex too soon after childbirth, or a surgery,  can cause pain during sex.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) – These may include chlamydia, genital warts (HPV), genital herpes, or other STI’s.

Injury to the vulva or vagina- These injuries may include a tear from childbirth or from a cut (episiotomy) made in the area of skin between the vagina and anus during labor.

How Can Painful Sex In Women Be Treated?

Some treatments for painful sex in women do not require medical treatment. For example, painful sex after pregnancy can be addressed by waiting at least six weeks after childbirth before having intercourse, or when a women feels she is ready again. Make sure to practice gentleness and patience. In cases in which there is vaginal dryness,  or a lack of lubrication,water-based lubricants will help. In the cases of some conditions such as menopause, topical estrogen creams may be needed to bring tone back into the vaginal wall, along with lubricants during sex.

Some of the conditions such as endometriosis, PID, fibroids, or trauma to the vagina and will require surgery and adjunct therapies such as hormones and other medications.

Other issues such as vaginal infections, bacterial infections, skin conditions, STI’s etc may just need medications such as antibiotics, antifungals, steroids and other medications for their treatment

Some conditions like vaginismus, or psychological traumas (sexual abuse), may require a person to see a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or sex therapist.

There are also natural medicines such as Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, naturopathy, herbal supplement etc that may help with pain, either on their own, or in combination with medical treatments and talk therapy

If you do have pain with sex, you need to go and speak to your healthcare provider, or seek the help of a gynaecologist, or women’s health specialist.

Pain with sex is not normal, and you need to find out the cause of these issues and not put it off. At my clinic, I can help you if you are having pain with sex.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

Incontinence, Bladder issues and Weak Pelvic Floor

Incontinence is often an embarrassing condition that will have more than a third of people suffering in silence because they are too embarrassed to seek treatment. Both men and women can suffer incontinence. Although patients don’t die of incontinence, they often can’t live a fully productive life, they may have to curtail their workload or change jobs. Many factory workers and school teachers are only allowed set times for toilet breaks, so patient with urge incontinence may have to change jobs. Patients who work in the military or the police force may have to resort to desk jobs. Too many women with incontinence stop having sexual intercourse, either because they are afraid they will leak during sex, or else they actually do leak, either at penetration, or at time of orgasm, which can be very disastrous. While men can also suffer incontinence, I am mainly going to focus on the causes of incontinence in women for this post.

Many people don’t seek treatment because they also believe that surgery is their only option. Nothing could be further from the truth and surgery should only be used as a last resort once conservative methods have been used and aren’t working. Even then, the surgical approaches used today are less invasive, are very effective and the recovery is very quick. It is not like it was 10-20 years ago. Keyhole surgery has really made major changes in this area and new surgical techniques are so highly effective.  I know people want to avoid any surgery, but sometimes it is needed and these days the recovery rates are so quick. A few days out of your life for recovery, can actually change your whole life. I just do not understand why anyone would put up with a life with incontinence, prolapse, or weak pelvic floor, when these issues are so easily fixed these days. I know many patients are so amazed at how easily their incontinence issues was fixed and how amazing they feel in getting their life back again. No more leakage when they laugh, cough, or exercise.

Some people never seek treatment believing that incontinence is just a normal part of life. Again, this is not true and all and I encourage anyone with incontinence to come and talk to me, or you pelvic floor specialist, so we can help treat you and can also refer you to the right people for treatment and management if needed. I know my pelvic floor/urodynamic surgeon is amazing and what he can do for women and these issues is amazing too. Then I just help with the management and strengthening moving forward.

Like I said before, surgery isn’t always needed. Many times conservative measures such as pelvic floor exercises, core strengthening, bladder toning, topical estrogen therapy, internal TENS (electrostimulation) and pulse magnetic therapy can all product fantastic long term treatment to this often debilitating condition, without the need for surgery. There are also some special rings and other devices that can be used to prevent leakage and support prolapsed bladder and also vaginal prolapse causing incontinence. Men with incontinence also have options at hand and these can also be explored well before surgery is needed. What people need to be aware of too, is that if you have been doing all the conservative treatments, and they aren’t helping, then it is time to get some surgical intervention. I think people think that pelvic floor exercises with fix all bladder and pelvic floor issues, and this doesn’t work, then there is nothing that can be done to help them. I need for all women (and men) to know that there is always help for bladder and pelvic floor issues and you just need to see a specialist, not just your GP.

On a natural medicine level, acupuncture may assist in the treatment and management of pelvic pain, prolapse and incontinence. Anyone with incontinence should be using acupuncture as part of their overall management. There are also Chinese herbal medicines that may assist with toning the pelvic floor and bladder to help stop incontinence. Yoga and Pilates may also help toning of the pelvic floor and help managing incontinence, pelvic floor and post-surgical management of prolapse too.

Incontinence and bladder issues are defined as needing to pass urine more than 8 times per day, leakage of urine through cough, sneeze, urge, or without cause. It is important to seek help if you notice damp underwear, need to use pads because of leakage or are constantly running to the loo to pass urine.

There are many different types of incontinence with the main ones defined as stress incontinence, urge incontinence and voiding dysfunction/incomplete emptying. There is also mixed incontinence (mix of the 3 main ones) and also a term called overactive bladder syndrome which can be a mixture of all forms of incontinence. There are also inflammatory bladder conditions that cause incontinence such as bacterial cystitis and interstitial cystitis. Physical issues such as previous surgery, childbirth and prolapse can also cause incontinence too.

The first task for the clinician is to find out how severe the incontinence is, based on the frequency of leakage, whether the woman finds it necessary to use incontinence pads, and if so how many pads. Some patients may prefer to change their underwear more frequently, while others may tuck tissue paper inside their underwear, and just throw away the tissues whenever they are damp.

The classic feature of stress incontinence is that the patient leaks with coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, playing sport or lifting heavy objects

The classic feature of urge incontinence is that the patient rushes to the toilet with an urgent desire to pass urine, but as she gets to the loo and is taking down her trousers, the urine comes away from her- sometimes before she has even sat down. Unfortunately these patients cannot predict when these bladder spasms will come upon them, and therefore can’t really tell when they are likely to leak.

Nocturia is defined as being woken up by your bladder needing to go to the toilet- as opposed to being woken up by a crying baby, a snoring husband, or menopausal night sweats. However nocturia is age dependent. Nocturia is defined as waking 1 or more times per night if under 60 years of age

Typically this patient Voiding dysfunction/ Emptying difficulty has to strain to commence voiding (called “hesitancy”). She may also have observed that when she compares herself to other women urinating in the toilets at the movies or in airports, her stream seems poorer than others with the urine dribbling out more slowly. She will often also describe the sensation of incomplete emptying and may need to go back to the toilet within a relatively short time to re-void. Sometimes she will leak as she gets off the toilet, which is how she realises that she is not empty. This is called post-micturition dribble incontinence.

In males these symptoms most commonly occur when the prostate gland is enlarged- causing a relative urethral obstruction and making it more difficult for the urine to get out. These men have chronic high residual urine, so they end up going to the toilet very frequently in a vain attempt to empty out. They often dribble urine onto their clothes. When such men have prostatic surgery they usually find that their urine flow rate returns to normal and they usually stop dribbling.

We will also need to explore how inflammation of the urinary bladder leads to suprapubic pain, and consider the two main causes of this, Bacterial Cystitis and Interstitial Cystitis .It often feels difficult to treat incontinence in the presence of bacterial cystitis, because such patients are overwhelmed by frequency and urgency of micturition and they may experience disabling suprapubic pain. It is fixable with the right treatment though. It all gets back to who is managing you.

On the other hand, a separate cause of Urinary Pain, called Interstitial Cystitis, does not usually cause much incontinence at all- it just causes suprapubic (bladder) pain with severe frequency and urgency of micturition.

The overactive bladder (OAB) is a clinical syndrome, not a urodynamic diagnosis. It comprises frequency, urgency, and nocturia, with or without urge incontinence.

Gynaecological conditions such as Endometriosis and Adenomyosis etc can also cause issues with bladder and pelvic floor.

Please read my post on Atrophic vaginitis as this is also another cause of weakness in the pelvic floor and bladder and could be a cause of incontinence.

No matter what sort of incontinence you have, there is always an answer and a solution to your problem. Not all solutions are surgical either. More often than not some conservative treatments, some exercises and some acupuncture is all that is needed. Sometimes all some women need is some treatments with estrogen creams to help with tone in the vagina, bladder and pelvic floor

Surgery and now bionic devices are always an option for those whom have tried conservative options and aren’t getting the desired results. Surgery is often used because of quality of life issues. Again surgery these days is so effective and less invasive and the recovery is so much quicker due to keyhole surgery and new surgical interventions.

If you are experiencing incontinence or bladder issues, please book in and see me, or a good pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, so you can be evaluated properly and see what is going on and implement the right treatment strategies to get your quality of life back again. Many times there may be an easy non-invasive treatment for your particular issues. Even when surgical intervention is needed, these days even this is less invasive than it used to be and the recovery and results are very quick.

Please read my post of Atrophic Vaginitis as well as this all ties into this area too, especially for those women in the menopause and post menopausal time of their life.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

– Women’s & Men’s Health Advocate

Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a vaginal disorder that usually happens after menopause, but it can happen long before this time as well. When estrogen levels fall, the vaginal walls can become thin, dry, and inflamed. This then causes the surrounding tissue to lose its elasticity and become atrophied. This can be uncomfortable. Gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids can make someone more prone to atrophic vaginitis as well.Many women that have atrophic vaginitis may not even know that they have it.

As many as 40% of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of atrophic vaginitis after menopause, but only 20 to 25 percent will seek medical help. Many women will not seek treatment because they feel embarrassed due to the sensitive nature of the condition. Some women just put up with it believing it is normal. Untreated, it can affect a woman’s quality of life and even lead to increased risk of prolapse and other gynaecological and urological conditions. Many of the treatments are non-invasive and are very effective in a short amount of time.

Symptoms of Atrophic Vaginitis

  • vaginal dryness
  • pain during sexual intercourse, or dyspareunia
  • thin, watery, yellow or gray discharge
  • paleness and thinning of the labia and vagina
  • irritation when wearing certain clothes, such as tight jeans, or when on a bike seat
  • more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), or urinary tract like infections(which is from inflammation, with no infection present)
  • Vaginal Prolapse

Symptoms can also present in issues with the bladder and urination

  • painful urination
  • blood in the urine
  • increased frequency of urination
  • incontinence
  • increased likelihood and occurrence of infections, or irritation to the bladder that may feel like an infection

There may also be a reduction in pubic hair, and the vagina may become narrower and less elastic, which may cause a condition called vaginismus.

Causes

During perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause, a woman can have decreased levels of estrogen. When the ovaries stop making estrogen after menopause, the walls of the vagina become thin, and vaginal secretions are reduced. Similar changes can happen to women after childbirth, but these changes are temporary and less severe. These same changes can happen for women with endometriosis and adenomyosis and often why there can be changes to the wall of the vagina. Some of the medications used to help these conditions can also cause thinning of the vaginal wall and surrounding area. Many women with endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids etc, will have increased risk of atrophic vaginitis during the perimenopause, menopause and post-menopausal period.

Medications, or hormones, can be used as part of the treatment for breast cancer, endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, or infertility to reduce estrogen levels. This decrease in estrogen can lead to atrophic vaginitis.

Other causes of atrophic vaginitis include:

  • severe stress
  • depression
  • Surgery, or treatment to the pelvic area
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • rigorous exercise
  • chemotherapy

Other substances that can cause further irritation to the vagina are:

  • smoking
  • soaps
  • laundry detergents
  • lotions
  • perfumes
  • douches
  • tampons
  • yeast infections
  • condoms (due to latex allergy)

Diagnosis

The best person to see for this condition is a pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, or a women’s health specialist. While you GP can help with diagnosis of this condition, it is preferable to see a specialist who has more training in this condition and can help manage this moving forward. A specialist will carry out proper examinations, be able to diagnose this correctly and ask about medical history. They may ask about the use of agents that can irritate the area and cause or aggravate symptoms, such as soaps or perfumes.

Your specialist will also do tests to rule out STI’s and other possible causes of infections such candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis etc. Atrophic vaginitis can make the area more susceptible to becoming infected. It can occur alongside an infection. A diabetes test may be performed to rule out diabetes. A biopsy may be taken to rule out cancer.

Treatment

The first line treatment is usually conservative treatments with topical estrogen creams inserted into the vagina and focuses treatment on the affected area. A low-dose estrogen cream can be used to stimulate rapid reproduction and repair of the vaginal wall, tissue and cells. Women should be shown how to insert the creams with an applicator and then use their finger to help disperse the cream properly to get good coverage of the vaginal wall.

Creams are much better than pessaries, because pessaries often do not disperse well and may only give coverage to a small area. These creams are also safe to use for those at risk of certain cancers, or who have had hormone dependent tumors.

Some women may also need to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), in the form of a tablet, gel, patch, or implant to supply estrogen to the whole body. These estrogens are effective, but there may be side effects. Patients should discuss the risks of long-term HRT (especially breast cancer risk) with their healthcare practitioner.

Some women may also need to use a water-soluble vaginal lubricant may help to provide relief during intercourse, for mild cases.

Regular exercise is important, as it keeps blood flow and genital circulation high. Pilates and yoga is very beneficial for the pelvic floor and core stability and should be part of a woman’s overall lifestyle management. Women in the perimenopause and menopausal periods of their life should be doing some form of weight baring and strengthening exercise regularly.

Diet is also important and very effective in the overall treatment of atrophic vaginitis, menopause and gynaecological conditions. A low GI/Low Inflammatory based diet should be adopted and it is important to see a qualified nutritionist to help set out the right individualized diet for you.

There are also herbal medicines, supplements, omega 3 oils, and other natural based formulas that can help with atrophic vaginitis. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are very effective in helping with atrophic vaginitis, menopause and gynaecological issues such as endometriosis and adenomyosis. There are many natural medicines and natural treatments that can help with pain, hormone regulation and micro-circulation for the vagina, uterus, bladder and reproductive organs.

Prevention

Regular sexual activity and stimulation of circulation to the vagina can help prevent atrophic vaginitis. It is more around climax helping, rather than just sexual activity, or intercourse. Some women have pain during intercourse, or experience dryness, so foreplay and being well lubricated can help this. Using a water-soluble vaginal lubricant can soothe mild cases during sexual intercourse. Masturbation and stimulation without intercourse to produce climax may help those women who have pain with intercourse, or who may not have a partner.

Regular climax and sexual activity can also show benefits for both the elasticity and flexibility of the region. Women who have regular climax and are sexually active report fewer symptoms of atrophic vaginitis when compared to women who do not regularly climax, or have regular sexual intercourse.

Regular exercise, such as Pilates and Yoga can help with the pelvic floor, vaginal tone, bladder and reproductive organs. Kegels exercises can also help.

A low GI/Low Inflammatory based diet should be adopted and it is important to see a qualified nutritionist to help set out the right individualized diet for you.

There are also herbal medicines, supplements, omega 3 oils, and other natural based formulas that may help with the prevention of atrophic vaginitis and assist with circulation and hormone regulation.

Fast facts on atrophic vaginitis

  • Atrophic vaginitis refers to dryness of the vagina.
  • Symptoms include painful intercourse and an increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs), or urinary tract like infections (due to inflammation of the bladder, not from infection).
  • It is caused by a reduction in estrogen, normally following menopause or treatment with anti-estrogen drugs. It can also be caused from gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids.
  • Topical treatments and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help relieve symptoms
  • Around 40 percent of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of atrophic vaginitis, but many do not seek treatment.

If you you need help with any of the symptoms mentioned above, please book in to see me for a consultation and management. If you can’t see me, please get your healthcare practitioner to refer you to a specialist for diagnosis, treatment and management of this condition and its symptoms.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

– Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Expert

-“No Stone Left Unturned”