Health Conditions / Sexual and Reproductive Health / Sexually Transmitted Infections

PSA: Don’t Sleep on the Campus Health Center When You’re in College

PSA: Don’t Sleep on the Campus Health Center When You’re in College

There’s a lot to love about college: sudden independence, late nights with new people who turn into lifelong friends, and endless opportunities to learn and grow. It can also keep you super busy—a packed schedule probably means that checking out various campus services is the last thing on your mind. But if there’s one service you use, make it your student health center.Not only will it put your health into your own hands (which may be a new thing for you), but it will help you stay on your A-game all throughout college. And if this is the first time you’ve had access to a one-stop shop for all your health needs, you may not even know everything that is available to you. In fact, when the SELF team discussed their biggest health-related college regrets, an overwhelming number of people said they wish they’d taken advantage of their campus health center.So here’s a rundown of the most important services that your student health center has to offer and why you should definitely check them out.1. You’re already paying for these health services.Here’s the thing: The cost of college includes tuition, room and board, and various student fees. Those fees generally include student health services, which means you might already be paying to access those resources. So why not make the most of it?For example, the health fee is mandatory for all students at UNC-Chapel Hill, whether or not they actually visit the health center, Ken Pittman, MHA, FACHE, executive director of campus health services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells SELF. (Though 78% of students do utilize the university’s health services at least once a year, he notes). Basic services such as primary care visits, gynecology checkups, urgent care, and mental health counseling are covered under that fee, he says—so they won’t be billed to health insurance at all.As for services not covered by the student health fee? These vary at each school, but can include lab tests, like rapid flu testing, X-rays, and some procedures (for example, some campus health centers do IUD insertions and others don’t), says Pittman. These services are billed to the student’s personal health insurance, which may be required at some institutions.Remember, you can stay on your parents’ health insurance plan until you turn 26 years old, per Healthcare.gov, so you might have coverage that way. Many colleges and universities even offer students medical insurance plans, which may be another option for you. To learn more about your school’s specific health care requirements, chat with the folks at your campus health center.2. It makes it easy to schedule regular checkups.When you’ve got papers to write and classes to attend, getting annual checkups can feel like a drag. Besides, if you feel fine (save for the occasional sleepless night), do you really need routine checkups?TBH, yes. Regular checkups are a form of preventive care, which can help you identify or avoid health issues before they become bigger problems that require treatment. This involves services like routine blood tests, mental health screenings, and physical examinations, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Yes, your childhood primary care doctor, if you have one, can perform these services—but thanks to your student health center, you won’t need to wait until you’re back home to book an appointment.

There’s Lots of Confusion and Stigma Around Monkeypox—Let’s Clear It Up

There’s Lots of Confusion and Stigma Around Monkeypox—Let’s Clear It Up

Beyond messaging, the testing, treatment, and vaccination infrastructure must also be equitable and robust, especially as an outbreak continues to grow. Oni Blackstock, MD, founder and executive director of anti-racist health equity consulting organization Health Justice, worries the U.S.’s health care infrastructure is unprepared for monkeypox: “Many of the same issues that we saw with COVID—lack of access to testing, vaccines, and treatment—are also being seen with [monkeypox],” she tells SELF. “Black and Latino [gay men and their sexual networks are] disproportionately affected,” she adds. “We know these groups have less access to care and are more likely to be uninsured.”Other experts are also concerned that public health outreach efforts may not reach those in rural areas. “Many people in the U.S. do not have access to sexual health clinics, which are a critical safety-net resource for providing high-quality, LGBTQ-friendly health services at low or no-cost,” Jay Varma, MD, professor of population health services at Weill Cornell Medical College, tells SELF.The infrastructure underlying the state-by-state vaccine rollout—including online portals for appointment scheduling and the locations and hours of vaccination sites—can also be inaccessible to disabled people, those without reliable internet access, and people who work in the evenings.In an urgent open letter to the Biden administration, a group of 16 health care and equity experts and queer community members laid out policy solutions that they believe are key to ensuring the monkeypox response reaches marginalized and underserved communities. The letter details the need for free testing and vaccination at community venues, supporting rapid research for testing, and increasing staff resources for front-line agencies such as sexual health clinics, among other proposals.So, should we consider monkeypox an STI?It’s possible you’ve seen news stories referring to monkeypox as a sexually transmitted infection—and then other news stories (or social media discourse) contesting that characterization. There are a couple of reasons for both the characterizations and the pushback.First, it is true that a majority of monkeypox cases reported in the U.S. right now are being driven by sexual contact. But, to be clear, monkeypox can spread via any type of close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox, the CDC says. This can happen during intimate contact like any kind of sex, kissing, hugging, massage, prolonged face-to-face contact, or touching fabrics and objects that were used by someone who has an active infection.Advocates like Farrow worry—for good reason—that referring to monkeypox as an STI will result in the stigmatization of those most at risk. As Gothamist reported, other experts worry calling it an STI “could also downplay the threat posed to the general public, leading some people to not take precautions when they should.”Of course, whether something is contracted sexually should not impact the quality of your care, or your access to disease education, vaccination, and treatment. There’s nothing inherently shameful about sexually transmitted infections. It’s when bad-faith actors use the STI label as a way to denigrate communities at risk that the label becomes dangerous.

10 Possible Causes of a Swollen Vagina or Vulva—and How to Find Relief

10 Possible Causes of a Swollen Vagina or Vulva—and How to Find Relief

If you’re currently dealing with a swollen vagina or vulva, it’s understandable to have questions—like, a lot of them. One biggie: How long does it usually take for that swelling to calm down?Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. “It really depends on what’s causing it,” Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, tells SELF. “It could be a day or a couple of weeks.” (For your sake, we’ll hope it’s the former.)Unfortunately, the answer might not always be obvious, as there are several issues that can cause a swollen vagina or vulva (including your labia and clitoris). Here’s a breakdown of what might be triggering the puffiness, plus when you need to see a doctor already.Let’s talk about vaginitis, the most likely reason you could have a swollen vagina or vulva.If you have swollen labia and it’s not going away, you probably want to check in with your doctor. While you wait to be seen, here’s what you should know: It’s not uncommon to deal with vaginal and vulvar inflammation in general for a whole bevy of reasons. This is known broadly as vaginitis, an umbrella term for various causes of inflammation or infection of the vagina and/or vulva, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).First, there’s noninfectious vaginitis, which is caused by dermatitis, the medical term for skin inflammation, per the Mayo Clinic.Dermatitis—specifically contact dermatitis—typically happens around your vulva or vaginal area when something irritates your skin or causes an allergic reaction.1 The specific irritant in question can vary based on your skin’s sensitivities. When it comes to the vulva and vagina, however, some of the main culprits include soaps, douches, and bubble bath products, Mary Rosser, MD, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, tells SELF. In addition to the swelling, you might notice itching, stinging or burning, or blisters.Here’s some general advice: It’s best to keep anything with fragrance away from your vulva and vagina, period. Yes, even soap, because it might bother the truly delicate skin of your genitals. You actually don’t need to clean your vulva with anything but water, but if you truly feel compelled, use the gentlest soap you can find and try to make sure none gets inside of you, where it can cause more irritation.That said, we’ll walk through some of the most common reasons your vagina and/or vulva might be swollen and irritated, including products you might not even be aware are a problem.Back to top1. Scented tampons or padsScented tampons and pads have mostly fallen out of favor over concerns that they introduce unnecessary fragrances to your vaginal area. But there are still plenty floating around out there disguised under the promise of being “odor blocking.”But Dr. Greves says you shouldn’t fall for this misleading (and stigmatizing) marketing. “You can swell up easily from a scented tampon or pad,” she notes.According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you might experience irritant or contact dermatitis due to the fragrance in these products, which can lead to a rash, excessively dry skin that peels or cracks, tender skin, burning or stinging, hives, or even blisters in addition to swelling.What to know about treatment: This really depends on how bad your swelling is. For starters, Dr. Greves recommends that you stop using scented tampons and pads ASAP and see where that gets you. “Sometimes the swelling will go away quickly,” Lauren Streicher, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF.When to see a doctor: If you’ve stopped using scented tampons or pads and your swelling is sticking around for more than a day, Dr. Greves says it’s time to see a doctor, who may prescribe a steroid cream to help resolve the situation. Ditto if you feel like your symptoms are getting worse.Back to top2. Scented laundry detergentLaundry detergent seems innocent enough, but it can definitely wreak havoc on the delicate skin of your vulva, including your labia and clitoris. It’s a similar situation to using a scented pad or harsh soap, some laundry detergents contain fragrances that can irritate your vulva, causing contact dermatitis, Dr. Streicher says.

How to Keep Your Vagina Healthy During Swimsuit Season

How to Keep Your Vagina Healthy During Swimsuit Season

You might love basking in the summer heat and spending hours in a swimsuit. But your vagina? Not so much. Some common warm-weather habits can lead to irritation or wreak havoc on your precious vaginal flora, which is the delicate balance of bacteria and other microbes that keep your vagina healthy, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Disturbing that balance can increase the chances of developing a fungal or bacterial infection.Moisture, which is plentiful in the summer, is one of the most common things that can alter vaginal flora, Erin Higgins, MD, an ob-gyn at the Independence Family Health Center in Independence, Ohio, tells SELF. “Warmer days can cause you to sweat more and that moist climate can result in the overgrowth of certain yeasts and bacteria,” Dr. Higgins says.Summer is too fleeting to let crotch woes hold you back from thoroughly enjoying beach days. Here’s how you can keep your vagina healthy during these super sweaty months.1. Change out of wet or damp clothing.“Staying in a wet swimsuit is probably the most common bad practice around swimsuits,” Dr. Higgins says. Moisture from pool water or the ocean coupled with sweat creates the perfect breeding ground for potentially harmful pathogens, she says.Changing into clean, loose-fitting clothing after you’re done swimming is a good habit to adopt, Rebecca Scarseth, DO, an ob-gyn at the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, tells SELF. So throw some breathable, cotton underwear and loose-fitting shorts into your beach bag for a wardrobe change to help keep things dry. (You can also change into a clean, dry swimsuit if you prefer.)If you don’t have access to a restroom or changing room, Dr. Scarseth recommends changing as soon as you can—the key is to reduce your time in wet bottoms, especially if you already have a history of vaginal infections. You should also try to follow the same practice after working up a sweat in workout shorts or pants, Dr. Scarseth says.2. Avoid re-wearing an unwashed bathing suit.Both Dr. Scarseth and Dr. Higgins say bathing suits are one-use-only items—regardless of whether they touch any water. Even if your suit looks clean, the material comes into contact with bacteria from your vagina and backside after just one use. More bacteria accumulates the next time you put it on, which may increase your risk of infection or even just general irritation down there, Dr. Scarseth says.She recommends washing swimwear using unscented laundry detergent because fragrances can dry and irritate the skin. If you have dry or sensitive skin, then it’s best to look for products labeled as hypoallergenic, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Health experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend washing underwear and other bottoms like bathing suits using the hot water setting on your machine, which research1 shows may help reduce any microbes lingering on your suit. Some swimwear care labels may recommend hand washing the item, which Dr. Scarseth and Dr. Higgins say is probably just fine—as long as you clean your garment thoroughly and rinse out all the soap.3. Don’t share swimwear if you’re prone to vaginal infections.You may be tempted to borrow a friend’s one-piece when the pool is calling and your bathing suit sits at home. But borrowing your bestie’s swimwear (even if it’s clean) may not be worth it if you’re prone to infections. “It’s best to avoid sharing swimsuits. Even if washed, swimsuit bottoms can still harbor bacteria that could lead to an infection,” Dr. Scarseth says.

Why You May Have Gonorrhea Without Knowing It

Why You May Have Gonorrhea Without Knowing It

Sex can be amazing, but it can leave you with more than a body-quaking orgasm. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like “the clap,” are always a risk (even if you use protection, which you definitely should). But wait, what is “the clap,” exactly? It’s a slang word for gonorrhea (and no, it doesn’t come with a round of applause—zing!). Gonorrhea can cause uncomfortable symptoms or it can be asymptomatic, meaning you have no symptoms at all. That means you could have the infection and spread it to others unknowingly.If you were diagnosed with gonorrhea or think there’s a chance you have it, know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. “It doesn’t mean you are dirty or weren’t careful,” Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, FACOG, a board-certified gynecologist at DTLA Gynecology who is affiliated with Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, California, tells SELF. “If you are having sex, then I think you have to be realistic that you might get a sexually transmitted infection.”Staying informed—whether through understanding the protective methods available or recognizing the signs of gonorrhea—will help you mount the best plan to take care of your health. Keep reading to learn more about what “the clap” is, including why it’s called that and how you can prevent it.What is gonorrhea?Gonorrhea is a contagious bacterial infection that is usually contracted through the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The bacterium that causes gonorrhea (called Neisseria gonorrhoeae) thrives in warm, moist environments, so it typically infects mucous membranes in the urethra and parts of the reproductive tract, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). “In women, gonorrhea can spread beyond the cervix and infect the uterus and fallopian tubes, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID),” Renita F. White, MD, FACOG, a board-certified ob-gyn at Georgia Obstetrics & Gynecology who is affiliated with Northside Hospital in Atlanta, tells SELF. “This can potentially lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain if left untreated.”People usually get gonorrhea from sexual contact with another person or sex toys, but pregnant individuals who have an active infection can pass the bacteria on to their baby during childbirth.Back to topHow common is gonorrhea?It’s the second most commonly reported bacterial STI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are roughly 1.14 million new gonorrhea infections reported in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC. About half of all infections affect people between 15 to 24 years old.Back to topWhy do they call it “the clap”?Good question. Gonorrhea is one of the oldest STIs known to humans, so it’s hard to identify the first person who called it “the clap.” However, there are a few unproven theories about the term’s origin stories, Anna Powell, MD, MS, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tells SELF. One popular theory identifies “the clap” as a derivative of les clapiers, which translates to rabbit huts in French, referencing the small homes where prostitutes lived during the 1500s1. “The clap” may also reference a medieval method that involved clapping a heavy object on a person’s penis to remove discharge caused by the infection. And finally, the phrase may have been used hundreds of years ago to describe the clapping sensation some people experienced when peeing2.Back to topWhat are the most common gonorrhea symptoms?Identifying the STI on your own is tricky because gonorrhea symptoms can be subtle, or they can mimic other infections—if they’re present at all. In fact, 50% of people with vaginas experience gonorrhea symptoms3. In comparison, roughly 10% to 15% of people with penises are asymptomatic4. Dr. Yamaguchi says gonorrhea symptoms can occur anywhere from a few days to a month after your initial infection, but they typically show up within a week.

Is This Why Your Penis Feels Like It’s Burning?

Is This Why Your Penis Feels Like It’s Burning?

Back to topHow long do penile yeast infections last?This depends on how advanced the yeast infection is, how fast you treat it, and how well it responds to medication. If you treat the infection with over-the-counter meds, you’ll usually apply these for one to three weeks.2 Ideally, this will be enough to make the yeast infection go away for good. If that doesn’t do the trick, you’ll need to see your doctor for next steps and an updated timeline. You’ll most likely need to take a single dose of oral antifungal medication, or if symptoms are severe, two single doses, three days apart, according to the Mayo Clinic.Back to topAre penile yeast infections contagious?Practically speaking, yes, you can pass a yeast infection to another person through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, but it’s not really the same thing as an STI like gonorrhea or chlamydia. That’s because everyone naturally has Candida living on their bodies. With a transmitted yeast infection, though, it really comes down to how your body reacts to someone else’s overgrowth of yeast, according to Planned Parenthood.If you keep getting penile yeast infections and you aren’t sure why, it may be a good idea to talk to your partner about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. A doctor can test both you and your partner for the presence of yeast and recommend treatments to help if they confirm that you’re passing an infection back and forth (which can turn into a vicious cycle quickly when left untreated).So, do you have to wait until the yeast infection is gone to have sex? Generally, that is the safest option, but it really depends on the underlying cause of your infection and your doctor’s advice. They will likely give you the green light once your physical symptoms have gone away.Back to topCan you tell the difference between a penile yeast infection vs. a UTI vs. an STI?A penile yeast infection can closely resemble other health problems, including a urinary tract infection (UTI) or various STIs, but there are a few key differences. For one, they are all caused by different things (fungus, bacteria, and viruses are all in the mix here), and so they each have varying treatments.While a penile yeast infection will usually cause intense itching and white spots on the skin of the penis, a urinary tract infection will not. A UTI may also present with a few extra symptoms like fever and a near-constant urge to pee even if not much comes out, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).An STI may be a little more difficult to differentiate, since a number of sexually transmitted infections can cause symptoms that overlap with those of a penile yeast infection, like pain while urinating or having sex, inflamed skin, and discharge. When in doubt, see your doctor who can perform a physical exam and order any needed testing—you’ll likely need prescribed treatment regardless of your diagnosis.Back to topHow can I prevent a penile yeast infection?Since hot, humid conditions encourage yeast to thrive, it’s especially important to wash the penis (and foreskin, if you have it) with mild soap, especially after exercise and in the summer when the skin tends to be sweatier. Also, try to make sure the area under your foreskin is dry to halt eager yeast growth in its tracks.2 (A gentle pat down with a towel is all you need here!) Wearing breathable athletic wear may also be helpful during workouts and the warmer months, and change out of those clothes immediately after getting sweaty. It may also help to use some antifungal spray or powder on your genital area in the morning if you’re going to be working outside in hot weather. And since certain health conditions can increase your risk for a penile yeast infection, taking steps to manage your condition, such as keeping your blood sugar levels in check in the case of diabetes, is crucial for your overall health (and for trying to keep the yeast overlords at bay).With that said, penile yeast infections can just happen sometimes. Thankfully, there are lots of effective medication options, some of which you can even get at your local pharmacy. Because complications can be even more of a pain to deal with, getting on top of treatment as quickly as possible is the best way to get your life (and penis) back to baseline.Back to topSources:International Journal of Preventive Medicine, Penile Inflammatory Skin Disorders and the Preventive Role of CircumcisionStatPearls, BalanitisInternational Journal of Dermatology, Urologic Dermatology: A Comprehensive Foray Into the Noninfectious Etiologies of BalanitisRelated:

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Copper IUD?

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Copper IUD?

Deciding to get an IUD can feel like an empowering contraceptive commitment. But you also have a major choice to make: copper IUD or hormonal IUD? Whichever one you choose, these small, T-shaped devices are inserted into your uterus by a medical provider, and they can provide years upon years of extremely effective birth control. But they do work differently. You could opt for a hormonal IUD like Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, or Kyleena, which all use progestin to thin your uterine lining and thicken your cervical mucus, so it’s more difficult for sperm to reach an egg. Or you could go with the copper IUDeciding to get an IUD (intrauterine device) can feel really empowering—after all, these small, T-shaped contraceptive devices can provide years upon years of effective birth control.But deciding on the best IUD for you can also be a bit overwhelming. There are so many hormonal IUD options—and then there’s the non-hormonal outlier, the copper IUD.So, what makes this one different? The copper IUD, also manufactured under the brand name Paragard, is in a class of contraceptives referred to as LARCs or long-acting reversible contraceptives, Nichole Butler, MD, FACOG, a board-certified ob-gyn for the Women’s Health Center at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago, tells SELF. It’s made of soft, flexible plastic wrapped with a thin layer of copper. Every type of IUD is inserted into your uterus by a medical professional, but the copper IUD is unique in that it prevents pregnancy by changing the environment in your uterus to make it toxic to sperm. In contrast, hormonal IUDs (Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena) use progestin (a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone) to thin the uterine lining and thicken cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg.Dr. Butler is a huge fan of the copper IUD because it is non-hormonal and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it for up to 10 years of use after insertion (though, some doctors say it can last up to 12 years). That said, both hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs come with their own list of pleasant and potentially not-so-pleasant side effects, so you must weigh the pros and cons before deciding if the copper IUD is the right form of contraception for you. Here’s what you need to know before you pair up with Paragard.Pros of copper IUD | Cons of copper IUD | Copper IUD side effects | Copper IUD cost | Copper IUD experiences | Other non-hormonal birth controlWhat are the pros of the copper IUD compared to hormonal IUDs?Having a device inserted into your vagina (and on into the uterus) gives you plenty of reasons to ask a lot of questions. Your job, with the guidance of your ob-gyn, is to determine if the benefits of the copper IUD outweigh the downsides.Let’s start with the good stuff: “The major pros of the copper IUD are that it is long-acting, it doesn’t require you to remember to do anything every day, week, or month, and it’s non-hormonal for those who want or need to avoid hormones due to side effects or health concerns,” Kelly Culwell, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn in Sacramento, California, tells SELF.Not having to remember to take a pill every day is a big benefit of both types of IUDs. “The copper and hormonal IUDs are similar in terms of the way they are inserted, and they don’t require you to remember to do anything—sometimes called a ‘set it and forget it’ method, so they are both good options for people who can’t remember to take a pill every day,” Dr. Culwell says.Plus, IUDs are tiny, so you and your partner will not feel it during sex. (Just note that it does have two strings that hang through your cervix and into your vagina). The doctor will shorten the strings once the IUD is in place, allowing your health-care provider to periodically check to make sure it’s still there, should any issues arise.)With that said, let’s jump into the specific benefits of the copper IUD compared to hormonal IUDs:The copper IUD lasts a lot longer than hormonal IUDs.When it comes to long-lasting birth control, the copper IUD comes out on top. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s considered a long-acting method to prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years.By comparison, hormonal IUDs are only recommended for three to six years, depending on the brand. Of course, you can have any of them removed sooner, which is great news if you eventually decide you want to get pregnant. What’s more, fertility returns almost immediately after removal, making IUDs an excellent birth control method if baby fever ever kicks in.Cost and efficacy are on par with hormonal IUDs.Both the cost (which we dig into more below) and the efficacy of hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs are similar. The copper IUD’s effectiveness is seriously impressive (over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy), but the non-hormonal IUDs are pretty impressive too. According to a 2017 review published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, IUDs, both hormonal and non-hormonal, have the lowest failure rate of all contraceptive methods.3 What’s more, research from 2014 published in the journal American Family Physician shows that the copper IUD fails just 0.6% to 0.8% of the time.4 That boils down to fewer than one out of 100 people getting pregnant in the first year of using the copper IUD, which is a pretty excellent success rate.It can be used as emergency contraception.One other benefit that’s unique to the copper IUD is it can act as emergency contraception if needed, preventing pregnancy with nearly 100% efficacy after unprotected penis-in-vagina sex.1 The caveat is you’ll need to get one inserted within five days after having unprotected sex to be effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, the copper IUD and the hormonal IUDs are easily taken out, making it a great choice if getting pregnant becomes a priority.It’s a good option for people who are sensitive to hormones.Most people using a hormonal IUD don’t notice the same types of hormonal side effects that you might have with the combination birth control pill (which has estrogen and progestin), but Dr. Culwell points out that some people who are really sensitive to hormones might find they have side effects like mood changes. In that case, the non-hormonal copper IUD might be the best fit.

11 Possible Reasons Why It Seriously Burns When You Pee

11 Possible Reasons Why It Seriously Burns When You Pee

Kidney stones develop when salts and minerals commonly found in your pee pile up, crystalize, and stick together in your kidneys. Generally, this happens when your urine becomes concentrated for various reasons, including dehydration. For many people, drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help lower their chances of developing kidney stones4. But there are some medical conditions like gout (which causes joint swelling), that can increase your chances of developing these painful, pebble-like deposits, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Taking certain medications can also cause kidney stones.Interstitial cystitisInformally called “painful bladder syndrome,” this condition lives up to its name, as it can cause abdominal, bladder, and pelvic pain. (And yes, pain when peeing.) Generally, your pain starts when your bladder gets full and escalates until you let it all out. Then, you will have some relief until your bladder fills up again, according to the NIDDK. Aside from this, you may have the urge to use the bathroom very suddenly and more often than you normally do. Experts don’t know the exact cause of interstitial cystitis, but people who have the chronic condition may notice that dehydration, sex, and holding their pee makes their symptoms worse.Obstructive uropathyWith obstructive uropathy, your urine doesn’t drain through the urinary tract properly and backs up into your kidneys, causing a blockage. This typically happens as a complication of another health issue, such as kidney stones or a more serious condition like ovarian cancer, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Other signs of a blockage include pain in your sides (near your kidneys), getting the urge to pee often, decreased urine flow, and feeling like your bladder is never truly empty. If you think you have obstructive uropathy, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as you can because the blockage can cause bladder and kidney damage without treatment.Back to topHow do I stop my pee from burning?Treatments and remedies for dysuria largely depend on what’s causing that painful urination in the first place. In general, though, Dr. White says that “if the symptoms are persistent after two to three days, getting worse, associated with other bothersome symptoms like fever or ulcers on the vagina, these are all reasons to be seen by your doctor.”If it’s a UTI:If you suspect you have a UTI, it’s crucial to see a doctor who can order a urine culture to confirm your diagnosis. If you do have a UTI, then a round of antibiotics can kick the infection (and burning pee) to the curb. Otherwise, your doctor can work with you to determine the real cause of your discomfort when urinating. As we mentioned, if left untreated, a UTI can spread and turn into a kidney infection, which can be potentially life-threatening. In addition to being more likely to get a UTI if you have a vagina, you’re also more likely to get a UTI if you’re sexually active, have a suppressed immune system, are in menopause, or have kidney stones or other complications blocking your urinary tract (among other risk factors), according to the Mayo Clinic. Over-the-counter urinary pain relief meds, like Azo, can ease your symptoms, but do not treat the infection, Dr. White says. If UTIs regularly besiege your poor body, make sure to take preventive measures, like staying hydrated, wiping from front to back, and trying to pee after you have sex if that seems to set off symptoms for you. And if you specifically get two or more UTIs in six months or four or more within a year, your doctor may be able to offer you preventive treatment like a single-dose antibiotic you take after sex, the Mayo Clinic says. People who have gone through menopause may take topical vaginal estrogen to help with recurrent UTIs. If it’s a yeast infection:Antifungal medications can clear up the infection (and symptoms like painful urination). Some of these are available over the counter, and some are prescribed. With that said, it can be smart to talk to a doctor before grabbing an OTC medication, especially since some other vaginal issues, including STIs or UTIs, can seem a lot like yeast infections. (Here’s a more in-depth explanation of treating a yeast infection at home.) Beyond that, if you have four or more yeast infections a year, you can talk to your doctor about preventative strategies, who will likely prescribe a longer course of antifungals. To avoid recurrent yeast infections, Dr. Yamaguchi recommends wearing cotton underwear for breathability (or at least underwear that has a cotton crotch) and changing ASAP after you work out instead of staying in sweaty gear because yeast can thrive in moist and warm environments5.If it’s bacterial vaginosis:Your doctor can do a few simple tests to determine what type of infection you have, and if they find bacterial vaginosis is behind your dysuria symptoms, they’ll prescribe antibiotics for you to take either orally or vaginally, the Mayo Clinic says.If it’s an STI:If you’ve been sexually active and are now feeling pain after peeing, it’s worth heading to the doctor to be safe, if you can. If you do have an STI, treatment depends on what type you’re diagnosed with. If it’s herpes, your doctor will probably prescribe antiviral medication like acyclovir (Zovirax) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) to use when you have symptoms, the Mayo Clinic says. For chlamydia, you’ll likely be treated with antibiotics, the CDC says. If gonorrhea is the cause of your painful urination, the CDC recommends having a single dose shot of intramuscular ceftriaxone and an oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin. For trichomoniasis, your doctor will recommend that you take a large dose of either metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax), the Mayo Clinic says. It’s really important to get tested for an STI if you think you have one. Left untreated, some infections (like chlamydia and gonorrhea) can have long-term consequences including infertility.If it’s a sex-related vaginal tear:To cut back on that yikes-inducing feeling, Dr. Yamaguchi recommends pouring warm water over your vaginal area while you’re peeing. “The temperature will help interfere with the nerve pathways,” she says. And to avoid the issue altogether, she suggests making sure you’re plenty lubed up whenever your vagina’s getting some attention. If your vaginal tissue is more fragile due to atrophy and lubrication doesn’t help prevent abrasions, you can ask your doctor about other options like estrogen replacement therapy, Dr. White advises.If it’s a childbirth-related vaginal tear:Pain related to vaginal and/or perineal tears is an unfortunately common circumstance after vaginal childbirth. There are a few strategies you can try for relief, like using perineal irrigation bottles. These are devices many new moms rely on that make it even easier to squirt warm water on themselves to dull the pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may also want to try using ice packs (wrapped in something like a towel to protect your skin), taking sitz baths, or putting chilled witch hazel pads on the affected area (a sanitary pad in your underwear will help keep the witch hazel pads in place). Pain relievers, numbing sprays, and stool softeners may also help—talk to your doctor to figure out what might be right for you.If it’s due to products like soap or douches:This is more about prevention. Stop using any products you think are giving you trouble—these commonly include scented soaps, vaginal hygiene products, and douches. Try replacing them with gentle, fragrance-free soap and some water to wash your vulva (your external genitalia). Again, you don’t even need to wash your actual vagina. Let it clean itself in peace, please!If it’s post-menopause atrophic vaginitis:Sadly, many people who experience this dysuria cause don’t seek treatment, either because they’ve given up hope on feeling better or they’re too shy to discuss it with their doctor, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re dealing with this, chat with your doctor to determine whether hormonal supplementation with estrogen may help your symptoms, and if not, how to find relief. Other options include vaginal moisturizers, lubricants, dilators, and numbing agents, the Mayo Clinic says.If it’s kidney stones:Treatment depends on the type of kidney stones you have (yes, there are numerous types based on the substance they’re made of), their size, why you developed them in the first place, and your specific symptoms, according to the NIDDK. A doctor can run multiple tests, such as a urine test to look for high amounts of minerals, or an X-ray to look at the size and location of your kidney stones. Your treatment can be as simple as drinking lots of water to help the stone pass (even though this will likely be painful), or it might involve having a procedure that uses sound waves to break up larger stones.If it’s interstitial cystitis:Since there’s no cure for this condition, treatment will aim to help relieve your individual symptoms. For example, you may drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration or try pelvic floor therapy if you have muscle spasms, according to the NIDDK. Bladder training6, which involves holding in your urine for longer than you typically do, may also help. Before you start a bladder training program on your own, though, it’s best to talk to your doctor about how to do this without making your symptoms worse.If it’s obstructive uropathy:If your symptoms suggest obstructive uropathy, chat with your doctor about testing, which may include an ultrasound of your abdomen or pelvis, according to NLM. If there is an obstruction, your doctor will talk through options about relieving symptoms and removing the blockage, depending on the root cause of the condition. For example, you may have a stent placed in your ureter to drain urine, in addition to surgery to repair the obstruction, according to NLM.

Here’s How Genital Psoriasis Can Affect Your Life

Here’s How Genital Psoriasis Can Affect Your Life

The social stigma of psoriasis isn’t what it used to be. Celebrities with this inflammatory skin condition have stepped up to become much more vocal about how psoriasis affects them, and, in turn, more people understand that psoriasis isn’t contagious or something to be feared. What’s not so readily talked about is the fact that psoriasis can affect more than the skin that’s visible to others—yes, we’re talking about the genitals. Research suggests 63% of people with psoriasis will have symptoms on and around their genital area during their lifetime, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy.1 There is also a small percentage of people with psoriasis who see plaques only on their genitals. Genital psoriasis (sometimes called penile psoriasis, vaginal psoriasis, or vulvar psoriasis) can occur in any age group. It can also affect any skin type and skin color.Despite all of this, some people continue to have huge misgivings about discussing genital psoriasis, even feeling hesitant about showing it to their dermatologist. But, it’s really important that you do if this is something that affects you. From the physical side of things to the mental side, this condition can have a huge impact on your self-esteem and your relationships. Here’s everything you should know.What is psoriasis in general?Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that impacts at least 8 million people in the United States alone, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. When you have psoriasis, your immune system speeds up your body’s production of skin cells. This leads to a buildup of dead cells on your skin’s surface, and that buildup turns into red, gray, or purple plaques that may burn or itch. How psoriasis looks depends on your skin tone, with lesions appearing red, pink, or salmon-colored on lighter skin tones, and purple or gray-ish on darker skin tones.These areas, also called plaques, often show up on your scalp, elbows, and knees, but they can appear pretty much anywhere on your body. Plaques are typically described as “scaly,” meaning that they feel hard to the touch and peel away from the skin.Psoriasis flares are driven by inflammation that’s happening in your body. That means that while plaques are the most visible symptom of psoriasis, they certainly aren’t the only symptom. Psoriasis is linked to other inflammatory conditions, including psoriatic arthritis, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Anais Brasilieros de Dermatologia.2The severity of psoriasis is often assessed according to how much of your body area is covered with plaques. You can have what’s considered “mild to moderate” psoriasis but still feel like your symptoms have a serious impact on you. The clinical diagnosis of your psoriasis and how much it affects you are two different things. That’s why it’s important to consider the mental health aspects of having psoriasis. According to an older study published in the journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 75% of people with psoriasis say that the condition has had a moderate to large negative impact on their life, including interfering with daily activities.3Back to topWhat types of psoriasis can affect the genitals?There are several different types of psoriasis, and the categorization is based on how the plaques appear on your skin. All of them can affect the nether regions, however, inverse psoriasis and plaque psoriasis are the two types most likely to impact the genital area, Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Manhattan and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, tells SELF.Inverse psoriasis takes the form of inflamed, smooth plaques in the folds of your skin. This type of psoriasis can be found in areas where your skin rubs together, like under your arms and under your breasts. Inverse psoriasis often shows up in genital areas like the folds between your groin and inner thigh, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology.4Plaque psoriasis patches are dry, raised, and typically reddish, purple, or gray.5 When plaque psoriasis does affect the genitals, it may not have the same extensive scaling seen on plaques elsewhere on the body, Dr. Garshick says. For this reason, a skin biopsy—in which tissue is taken from the area and examined in the lab—may be necessary to determine whether it’s psoriasis or something else.

11 Sneaky Reasons Your Sex Drive Has Plummeted

11 Sneaky Reasons Your Sex Drive Has Plummeted

The concept of a low sex drive in women—and frankly, in anyone—is often paired with many misconceptions. The truth is, sexual desire can be a pretty fickle thing for everyone, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or relationship status. While it can be tempting to boil libido down to a biological need or innate human drive, that thinking is just not reflective of our current understanding of sexuality. “Ultimately, libido is our desire for sex, rather than a drive for sex,” Robin Buckley, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and couples therapist in New Hampshire, tells SELF.That’s not to say there’s no biological basis for how often you want to have sex. Research shows libido is greatly influenced by hormones1, and there are so many things that can have an impact on your hormonal makeup and on the hormonal changes that occur within your body throughout your life. Sex drive is also affected by physiological factors (like your neurologic, vascular, and endocrine system),2 as well as a number of psychosocial factors (like your self-esteem and the way you feel about your body).3Some of these factors are in our control and some simply aren’t, yet they all have a thread in the complex web of sexual desire. So it’s no wonder that humans would have a wide range of, well, horniness. In fact, what seems like a “low sex drive” to one person might seem high to another—there’s really no simple answer to a question like “why is my sex drive low?”But if your own desire to have sex seems off from your baseline, or you are wondering if you’re experiencing some symptoms of low libido in women, including those assigned females at birth and those who are transgender, there can be some specific underlying causes to consider. SELF spoke to sex and sexuality experts about what those can be—and what you can do if it’s truly bothering you.First, is it normal to not want to have sex?Our desire for sex exists on a spectrum and can be fluid from person to person—and within ourselves—over time. So, simply put, it can be normal to not want to have sex.There are so many periods in your life when sex is (understandably) the last thing on your mind, according to the Mayo Clinic. This includes things like a major life change like a move to a new city, becoming ill or experiencing an injury, feeling depressed, starting a new medication with unexpected side effects, or living through a global pandemic, to name a few.But you also don’t need to be going through a Big Life Moment to “justify” a low libido. Fluctuations in the desire for sex are extremely common. “Just because someone has a low libido at one point in their life doesn’t mean that they’ll have low libido all of their life,” Lauren Streicher, M.D., professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and author of Sex Rx, tells SELF.These changes can happen over months or years, even day to day. It’s also normal to never or rarely experience the desire for sex. (People who relate to those feelings may identify as asexual.)However, there is a clinical condition characterized by a sex drive that’s persistently lower than baseline: hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). “Hypoactive sexual desire disorder can have a negative impact on a person’s relationships and personal health,” Brett Worly, M.D., an ob-gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.When a person is diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder, it means they have lost some or all motivation to engage in sexual activities for at least six months or longer. On top of that, this lack of sex drive must be causing a lot of personal distress. Experts estimate that the condition may affect up to 10% of women.4Generally speaking, though, there is no “normal” amount of sex you should be having, whether you are in a relationship or not. The “right” amount of sex to be having is the amount that you and your partner or partners mutually feel comfortable with and consent to—and that doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.

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