Just a little warning first up that today’s topic is a little up close and personal. So look away now if you’re not feeling it today, no judgement!
Over the years I have suffered from chronic vaginal infections including both thrush and bacterial vaginosis. This is likely as a result of various hormone based treatments and countless courses of antibiotics. Many of you will know these well, thrush is an extremely common yeast infection which results in symptoms such as intense itching and a vaginal discharge. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an imbalance in vaginal bacteria. It can cause vaginal discharge, or no symptoms at all.
I am now at the point where the one-dose thrush treatment no longer works. The full arsenal is required to beat it back! For BV there are the antibiotics, which I often need two rounds to get results. And with the antibiotics comes the thrush..again. I often find that sex seems to trigger a flare in these infections. The GPs refuse to treat these themselves which means that I now have to go to the sex clinic. The clinic doctors have always been sensitive and thorough in their approach. This was until I went to see them in July this year. They tested for BV and when they got the results it showed that I have no vaginal bacteria. None, zip, zilch! I was a desert so to speak.
The doctors were now so unhelpful. They couldn’t tell me why it occurred, and they didn’t seem particular interested in finding out why. To treat it they suggested applying natural yoghurt to the area. They gave me the disclaimer that there was only anecdotal evidence to support this. I was so desperate though that I gave it a go. It may have worked for other people but it did absolute nada for me except to cause a gross mess, if you ever try this ladies please don’t make the same mistake that I did and wear a pad! I tried the vaginal probiotics in the form of a pessary which did seem to ease my symptoms a little. This wasn’t a big surprise as I have long suspected that my gut health and bacteria aren’t crash hot after all the antibiotics I’ve had in my life.
A few months on and after I’d had sex with a guy I was seeing at the time I had another flare-up which refused to let up. Back to the clinic I went, and this time I hit the jackpot with the doctors! Honestly, this lady was amazing, if not a little naive about endometriosis. She seemed shocked that I experience pain and take anti-inflammatories daily. She took a few swabs and did a physical examination. The swabs came back negative, but she discovered something interesting during the physical examination. After having the usual trouble finding my cervix, she noted that I have a very posterior uterus. This is often referred to as a retroverted uterus and means that it tilts backwards instead of forwards as it should. The doctor then looked around the outer area and asked if I had ever taken a look myself, and if I had noted anything different. I have, but it looked standard to me going by what I know about anatomy. She then went on to explain that one side of my outer area was quite a bit smaller than the other and the skin had an abnormal appearance. Along with these physical changes, and the symptoms I have been experiencing of the last few years, it added up to a diagnosis of Lichen sclerosus.
Lichen sclerosus affects skin around the genitals, often causing itchiness and white lesions on the skin. In my case, because it was misdiagnosed and left untreated for so long, it also caused changes to my anatomy. This lovely doctor prescribed me a steroid cream to apply to the area for the next three months. After this I go back to a specialist clinic she runs for a check-up and to re-assess treatment. She also recommended a couple of products to help manage the symptoms. One is an aqueous cream to wash with and apply after washing. The other is an aqueous spray for easy application during the day to prevent any irritation after going to the toilet. It has been such a relief to have this diagnosis. For so long I have spent so much time being paranoid that I have an STI, honestly you should see some of the freakout messaged my best friend has received.
I have been using the cream for a few weeks now, and my symptoms have already gone! My anatomy will always be a little different but I’m okay with that. I couldn’t really tell the difference, and I’ve certainly never had a guy say anything to me. What I’m really proud of myself for though, is that I stood up for my health. I was persistent with the doctors until I had the answers I needed. When you experience chronic symptoms it is easy to put off going to the doctors. You know there is a fair chance that they won’t know what it is, and that there’s nothing they can do. And sometimes this may be the case, but often there is something they can do to make life a bit easier. So please, never be afraid or embarrassed to go and see your doctor, or go to a sex clinic for that matter (they deal with more than STIs!). They are there to help, even if they unfortunately need reminding sometimes.
I know this was a long one but I really hope it helps. There are so many women out there that deal with similar issues, but there is still so much stigma that it can be hard to start the conversation.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!