Hidden ‘gyne’ problems

by Symptom Advice on October 4, 2011

Published on 16/09/2011

Some women live with deadly conditions for years without knowing it. DR BRIGID MONDA shows you signs that should make you rush to a doctor

Many women live in pain not knowing that what they are experiencing is abnormal and they need to see a doctor immediately.

Here are some of the most common ‘gyne’ problems women should know about:

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Women can harbour Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) like chlamydia or gonorrhoea without even knowing it. Chlamydia in particular can lie dormant for years after you get infected.

Both infections frequently produce no symptoms in women. They quietly fester in the body causing havoc in the pelvis, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease and fertility problems.

The first sign of danger is when you have trouble conceiving and your damaged tubes are spotted when you’re being investigated for infertility.

You may succeed in getting pregnant but end up with an ectopic pregnancy.

You also risk passing on the infection to your unborn baby during delivery. the gonorrhoea causing bacteria can also cause gonoccocal arthritis.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

This is an infection of the fallopian tubes, ovaries and the adjacent organs. in many cases, the infection is due to either chlamydia and or gonorrhoea.

PID can also follow a miscarriage, a criminal abortion or childbirth. the classical symptoms of PID are fever and severe pelvic pain.

These symptoms can be missed if you keep going to the doctor about problems that appear unrelated to the PID, such as irregular periods, cystitis, frequent bouts of thrush or backache.

A quarter of the women not treated for PID will suffer from scarring of the affected organs causing infertility, chronic pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancies.

The combined oral contraceptive pill like Femiplan protects against PID.

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths of the muscle of the uterus. They are especially common among black women who are three to nine times more likely to develop them. though genetic, the good news is that only 20 per cent of these women will develop symptoms and they shrink after menopause.

On the richter scale of women’s ‘gyne’ problems, fibroids are the equivalent of a minor quake.

Many women still have fibroids and have no problem conceiving.

In others, they cause heavy periods and may affect fertility, where due to their position in the uterus, they block the fallopian tubes or act like a contraceptive coil and thus prevent pregnancy.

The fibroids grow and can reach the size of a large melon causing backache, constipation, frequent urination and urinary tract infections, varicose veins and pain during sex.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

In this condition, the ovaries develop a mass of tiny cysts.the disease can also have nasty knock-on effects on your health. It increases your chances of becoming diabetic by seven times and of developing high blood pressure and heart disease three times more. It’s caused by an imbalance of testosterone, a male hormone.

The most obvious signs of the problem are acne, excessive hairiness and a deepening of the voice. sometimes the signs are not so obvious which makes it so hard to spot.

Many women suffer from no adverse effects at all. others only suffer mood swings and irritability which they put down to pre menstrual syndrome.

This condition causes painful, heavy periods but may be completely missed all together.

Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the womb, the endometrium grows in other parts of the pelvis including the bowel, ovaries, fallopian tubes and bladder.

Because it is the same tissue as the normal endometrium in the uterus, it responds to the hormonal changes and also bleeds causing pelvic irritation, inflammation and scarring of the tissues.

The women who are slowest to be diagnosed are those who don’t suffer from any unusual pain or bleeding and only discover it when they can’t conceive because it has involved the tubes.

Some women ignore warning signs like heavy periods, painful sex and or painful bowel movements because they think the pain they are experiencing is normal.

Keeping up to date with your pap smears will highlight precancerous cells and you can be treated even before you develop cervical cancer, the leading cause of death due to cancer in women in Kenya.

Ovarian cancer on the other hand is difficult to diagnose because it has no symptoms until it’s in an advanced stage. the space in the pelvis gives the cancer room to grow unnoticed until it’s causing extreme pain and swelling. There a genetic predisposition to it especially for women in whom a close family member has suffered from cancer of the bowel, breast or ovary.

Vaginal and vulval cancer are thought to be ‘old women’ cancers. They are rare below the age of 60.

However it is not unknown for these cancers to occur in younger women as well so it’s always important to take notice of any unusual symptoms.

A sore and itchy lump may indicate cancer of the vulva. an unusual, growth, bleeding or unusual discharge can be a warning of vaginal cancer

yet many women are to embarrassed to see a doctor.

Endometrial cancer — (cancer of the womb) the easiest gyne cancer to identify — which produces early warning bleeding in women who’ve had their menopause, can be missed. This cancer is completely treatable if caught early.

The combined oral contraceptive pill is also protective against cancer of the ovary and womb.


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