Dr Douglas Street, Contributor
Women love to feel attractive and go to great lengths - financially and otherwise - to maintain or improve their attractiveness. But having an unpleasant or unusual vaginal odour may cause a woman to feel embarrassed.
It may even cause her to avoid other people and may even make her feel depressed. What causes this problem, though?
The vagina naturally has a smell and it is probably unique to every woman, even though some may deny this. The nature and strength of this odour varies among women. When this odour changes, it usually means that there is a change in the mixture of bacteria in the vagina.
This may be a result of change in the percentages of the mixture, the absence of one of the usually dominant bacteria, or the presence of abnormal bacteria or other germs. The presence of abnormal bacteria may be an infection, sometimes even a sexually transmitted one (STI).
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a very common cause of abnormal vaginal odour and it is due to the absence, or low numbers, of the normally dominant lactobacilli group of bacteria, which normally maintain an acidic environment in the vagina.
Misinformed vaginal care is often the cause of this problem. Washing of the inside of the vagina (including douching), excessive wearing of panty shields, close-fitting clothes in the genital area, and antibiotic use may contribute to this problem. BV can be a difficult problem to get rid of.
STIs like gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and trichomonas may also cause an abnormal odour. Therefore, it is best to routinely check for them by having a high vaginal swab done and treated if required.
COULD CAUSE ITCHING
Vaginal candidiasis (yeast infection) may also cause an odour. It is usually accompanied by signi-ficant itching and a curdly white or yellow discharge. It may be caused by the same factors as BV. It can be difficult to get rid of and it is usually best to have a follow-up examination about two weeks after treat-ment to ensure that it has been controlled.
Other causes include cervical or vaginal cancer, and a foreign body (like a condom fragment or a forgotten tampon).
Interestingly, some women believe they have an abnormal odour, which is undetectable by everyone except the complainant. Examination and test results may be normal or insignificant, and in fact, these persons may actually be having a psychological problem.
Dr Douglas Street is a general practitioner and has private practices at Trinity Medical Centre, Trinity Mall at 3 Barnett Street in Montego Bay, and Omega Medical Centre at Plaza de Negril, Negril. Send feedback to email@example.com.