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Whether you’re uncomfortably shifting in your seat at work, desperately trying to avoid excessive friction in your exercise routine, or sprawled over the couch attempting to ignore the burning, we tend to avoid dealing with our discomfort down under until it reaches an excessively critical point. Sometimes we’re too busy, usually we’re too embarrassed, and we’re always hopeful it’ll just go away on its own.
And sometimes it does! A bit of a rash or some irritation may resolve itself on its own with a bit of TLC. But unfortunately, when our symptoms are caused by an underlying infection, they’re unlikely to go away on their own. In these cases, we need treatment as soon as possible to avoid further consequences down the line. First things first: a quick reminder that if you have any signs of infection we strongly urge you to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. At home testing is not appropriate if you’re experiencing symptoms.
Many things can cause discomfort in your pelvic area. Whether it be burning when you pee, pain with sex, itching or irritation, here is a run-down of some of the most common causes of genital discomfort.
Gonorrhea While gonorrhea often has no symptoms, it is also possible to experience abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal itching, penile discharge, burning with urination, testicular pain or swelling, rectal pain, or a sore throat.
Chlamydia Usually if you have chlamydia you will not have any genital discomfort. However you could experience burning with urination, testicular pain or swelling, irregular vaginal bleeding, or rectal pain. Other possible symptoms include increased urinary frequency, abdominal pain, or penile or vaginal discharge.
Trichomoniasis Trichomoniasis usually has no symptoms. Potential symptoms to look out for are foul smelling, green-yellow discharge, pain with urination, increased urinary frequency, or itching.
Herpes If you are experiencing painful sores to the mouth, rectum, vagina, or penis, or swollen lymph nodes, pain with urination, or a fever, you might have herpes. It is possible to have herpes without any symptoms, or to have ulcers that go unnoticed.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) The most common cause of vaginal discharge is BV. Although it can be asymptomatic, it sometimes causes a thin, white, fishy smelling vaginal discharge. Vaginal discomfort is also a common symptom of bacterial vaginosis.
Yeast Infection Vaginal itching, thick, white, cottage-cheese-like, odorless discharge, swelling and pain in the vagina and surrounding structures, or pain with urination are all signs that you might have a yeast infection.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) If you have a UTI, you can expect painful urination, urinating frequently, a constant sensation of needing to urinate but little or nothing comes out, a fever, chills, or lower abdominal pain.
All of these itchy, burning, nuisances are treatable. For many of them, a simple antibiotic regimen will have you back to feeling fresh in no time at all. Yeast infections can even be treated with over the counter medications that you can purchase at the drugstore!
One unfortunate reality is that once you contract some of these common causes of genital discomfort it becomes easier to get them again in the future. Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to protect your body, starting with correctly using barrier methods, like condoms and oral dams, every time you have sex. This healthy habit will help you avoid STIs, and the discomfort that sometimes accompanies them.
With regards to other vaginal infections, some helpful practices include changing tampons and pads frequently, always wiping front to back, changing your underwear immediately after swimming or exercising, avoiding perfumed produces in and around you genital area, and avoiding over-washing. For UTI’s it’s especially important to drink plenty of water and to pee before and after sexual contact. You could even try drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills – though studies are inconclusive, it’s likely not harmful.
While it may be tempting to avoid dealing with the uncomfortable situation between your legs, there’s likely a quick fix that will save you pain – or worse – going forward. Want to learn more about these common causes of genital discomfort? Check out “STIs: Here’s how to prevent, treat, and manage”. Looking for convenient, discreet, at-home STI Testing? Take our simple quiz to find the right test for you.