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Preventing Ladies' "Toilet Infections".

Well, many ladies often develop problems that they describe as “Toilet Infections”. What are they, though - and what causes them? Learn more here:

But just a minute!  Are “Toilet Infections” a medical condition?

What are the causes of toilet infection and what does it really mean?

And how do we go about preventing Ladies' toilet infections?

Let's see if we can tackle these questions and provide some clarity with our answers.


What are the Symptoms of a "Toilet Infection"?

Ladies are most likely to complain about toilet infections.

Usually, you would describe a problem from your private parts that you believe you have got or contracted from using a dirty toilet – especially a public toilet.

Here are some of the symptoms of “toilet infection” you may have:

  • Burning, or pain during urination
    • Sometimes it may be an intensely painful sensation whether or not you are passing urine.
  • Itching around the vulva and vagina
  • An unpleasant or foul odour coming from the vagina
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting outside of the usual menstrual period
  • Abnormal colour of the discharge from the vagina
  • An excessive amount of discharge from the vagina

These symptoms happen as a result of irritation or an infection in the vagina.

But do they come from using a dirty toilet seat??? No!


So, What Infections Come From Dirty Toilets?

Now, DON’T get me wrong – of course there are a few problems you can pick up from using unclean toilets:

  • Infections from germs on the toilet seat passing into your body from an open wound or cuts on the skin of your bottom or the back of the thighs. This could cause a skin or wound infection.

  • The other way you are most likely to pick up an infection in a shared/public toilet is by FAILING to wash your hands after use.
    • Such infections are more likely to happen from touching taps, the flush handle and even the toilet door handle as well as the toilet seat.
    • If you touch handles, flush, taps and are not careful to wash the hands, you will spread germs from these fomites to your hands and onto your face and mouth. These may cause problems like diarrhoea and vomiting from food poisoning.
    • And, the fact is that Many more people are likely to touch surfaces in a public toilet and not wash their hands than have an open wound or cut on their bottom or legs when they sit on the toilet.

So YES; dirty toilets do have a place for causing health problems but, NOT these "toilet infections" we commonly refer to.


Causes of Toilet Infections

We have established that the symptoms you call “toilet infections” are caused by several different things and NOT the toilet!

What are some of them? Lets go through a few.

#1. Infections of the Vagina (or Vulva or Womb).

  • Infections of the vagina and vulva which includes both sexual and non-sexually transmitted infections.
    • Remember, poor personal hygiene CREATES the enabling environment for germs that cause infection to do so.
    • This includes when the genital area is not kept clean regularly or if you wear too tight, uncomfortable and unclean underwear. These can lead to developing bacterial infections or yeast infections (Thrush) in some instances.

Sexual Infections of the Vagina

  • Sexual infections, on the other hand, require sexual CONTACT :
    • Unprotected sexual contact may lead to sexually transmitted infections like Herpes, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Trichomonas, Genital warts and others.
    • Chlamydia (for example) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections.
    • It can also cause symptoms which could be misinterpreted as a 'Toilet Infection'.
    • Check out this article on Chlamydia Testing that tells you all about the disease, symptoms, and treatment (with centers for readers based in the US).

#2. Dermatitis or Skin Sensitivity (Irritation)

  • Reaction or skin irritation to chemicals in creams, soaps, fragrances and other beauty products that you use could result in skin irritation.
    • If you have skin that is sensitive to some chmicals, this could inflame the skin in your genitals causing skin rashes, redness, itching and so on.

Skin Problems like Eczema cause itching if in the vagina or vulva area

#3. Other Skin Conditions

  • These include skin problems like eczema or a skin disorder known as Lichen Planus.
    • If you have very sore and irritated skin in your genital area from poorly controlled eczema, you may again suffer from very bad itching, soreness and rashes that you may associate with the toilet when actually it’s a skin problem that needs treatment.

#4. Hormone Changes

  • Hormone changes that happen in Menopause and other causes of hormone changes such as using hormone-containing contraceptive methods.
    • Now hormone changes from either of these scenarios can change the vagina tissue and make it more likely to get inflamed or irritated.

#5. Vaginal Acidity and pH

Now you may already know this but the environment within a woman’s vagina is naturally slightly acidic.

pH of the vagina refers to how acidic (or not) the vagina is.

Why should we be bothered about this, though?

Well, the acidic nature is simply a method the body uses to keep the vagina clean and free of infections from germs.

However, in some women this acidic nature may change from some conditions or actions including:

  • During your period,
  • After taking a course of antibiotics,
  • Over-washing the vagina
  • Using an IUD (intrauterine device) and
  • Semen if you have sex without a condom.

How Bacterial Vaginosis Develops

When the ph of the vagina changes to become less acidic, it makes it possible for some germs to overgrow.

They could lead to a condition known as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).

When the germs that cause BV overgrow, you develop symptoms: commonly an offensive, grey, coloured and excessive discharge, that may also lead to a smelly odour around the genitals.


Ten proven ways you can prevent “Toilet Infections”

However, whatever you call them, “Toilet Infection” can be very uncomfortable and embarrassing to a woman. It can also affect sexual activity and relationship with your partner.

From some of the causes we've looked at, I'm sure you can see - they could be prevented.

Let's look at some tips that could help you:

Image of open condom on green background - Condoms help prevent sexual infections

Your Daily Habits......

  • 1 - Practice safer sex. Wearing a condom during sex can reduce your risk of contracting many sexual infections.

  • 2 - Change your underwear material. Some women are sensitive to some fabrics and may suffer irritation as a result.
    • Briefs made from breathable materials like cotton appears to have less risk of vaginal or vulva irritation.

  • 3 - Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing,
    • For ladies who are especially prone to genital irritation and discharges, very tight clothing - trousers, tights and underwear allow for a very warm environment down in your privates.
    • Over a prolonged period, the warm sweaty confines of the genital area make it more likely for germs to thrive and grow leading to infections.

Some Cleansers do more harm.....

  • 4 - Avoid so-called vaginal cleansers, washes or douches. The nature of your vagina is usually slightly acidic to protect you from infection. The vagina is also able to clean itself, and so you do not require cleansers or washes. They can be harmful as they change the nature of the vagina that is the ph. They make the vagina more at risk of infection like BV or Thrush, and it can also cause excessive vaginal discharge.

  • 5 - Treat skin problems like eczema, which can cause dry skin and severe itching promptly.
    • Dry skin easily cracks and makes infection more likely.
    • After menopause, some women could develop a rare skin problem caused Lichen sclerosis which causes light-coloured, pale or white patches around the genital areas (vulva and anal area).
    • Lichen sclerosis is an intensely itchy condition.
    • Continuous scratching damages the skin and makes infection more likely.
    • Other ladies may be extremely sensitive to cosmetics and toiletries like soaps, perfumes and deodorants.
    • Other beauty products like scented toilet paper or wipes could also be skin irritants and cause burning sensation or rashes.

Different creams or soaps can cause vaginal irritation

Read here about Your Skin - Why You Should Never take It For Granted

More Prevention Tips....

  • 6 – Personal Hygiene!
    • Wear fresh underwear every morning and evening.
    • If you are on your periods, change your sanitary devices (tampons/pads/cups etc) frequently.
    • And if you bleed heavily wash more often as well.
    • Avoid wearing damp underwear. Do not share underwear.
    • Develop the habit of washing your genital area regularly every day and do so more frequently if you have been active/are sweating or are menstruating.

  • 7 - Change your contraceptive medication.
    • For some women, vaginal spotting and discharge happen as a result of the type of pill or contraceptive method they are using.
    • It can affect the female hormones. If there are no other causes for the symptoms, stopping the pill or method or using an alternative may relieve the symptoms.

Consider the effects of Medicines.....

  • 8 - Consider HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) if you are around the time of menopause. A woman's hormones change around the time when she stops ovulating. Because her oestrogen levels drop, her vagina becomes dry and easily irritated. Irritated vaginal tissue can lead to painful sex. HRT helps to improve the moisture of the tissues; as do HRT alternatives for women who do not or cannot use HRT.

  • 9 - Maintain a healthy immune system.
    • If your immune system is weak, you are at risk of infections.
    • In your vagina, as in other parts of the body, there is usually a mix of different germs living in 'harmony'.
    • If they are few, they do not cause any harm. But in a weakened immune system, they may overgrow and cause illness.
    • Vaginal yeast or thrush can develop in people with a low immune system causing discharge and uncomfortable itching in the genital area.

  • 10 - Take antibiotics only when you need to.
    • Antibiotics are drugs which kill harmful bacteria.
    • When doing so, they may also kill harmless bacteria.
    • Why do I need harmless bacteria, I hear you ask?
    • Harmless bacteria are useful in controlling the acidic nature of the vagina. If the vagina becomes less acidic, germs like yeast overgrow and cause thrush.
    • This change explains why some women need to treat themselves for thrush after taking antibiotics for another condition.


Conclusion

Hopefully, these tips help you make some changes that lead to a positive effect on your health.

If you develop the symptoms of "toilet infection" again, remember that there are a number of causes that do not include the toilet!

See your doctor to examine you and do tests if needed to identify the cause and get the right treatment.


More Reading?

Check out what you need for a Healthy Sex Life!

Also: Myths Tackled: What is a Vaginal Pessary?

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org


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