Western Connecticut Health Network Physician Experts Discuss Unique Health Care Needs of Women
Brooke Davidson, M.D.
Obstetrics and Gynecology, New Milford
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Laura DaVita, M.D.
Obstetrics and Gynecology, Danbury and Ridgefield
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A twinge here, mild discomfort there-you may think little of gynecological aches and pains, expecting that they will go away as the month progresses. But these signs are your body’s way of getting your attention. Although most symptoms are not cause for major alarm, they should be evaluated nonetheless, according to Laura DeVita, M.D., anobstetrician/gynecologist serving women in Ridgefield and Danbury.
“At one time or another, most menstruating women have experienced some form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – a collection of mild to moderate symptoms that may include mood swings, breast tenderness, bloating, food cravings, fatigue and irritability,” DeVita said. “But when new or unusual symptoms linger – such as frequent urination, cramping or major changes in menstrual cycles – it’s time to see your doctor. Fortunately, many gynecological conditions can be treated successfully with medication or simple, routine procedures. The best defense is an annual gynecologic exam.”
Brooke Davidson, D.O., an obstetrician/gynecologist in New Milford, agrees. “Only a thorough medical exam can identify the exact cause of a problem and ensure appropriate treatment. As you age, it’s normal to see changes in your body, but we want to be sure that they are typical as you move from the childbearing years toward menopause. By understanding your gynecological symptoms and seeing your doctor, you can minimize a lot of discomfort and unnecessary worry at any age.”
Lower Back or Pelvic Pain
Back pain that can’t be blamed on bad posture, physical exertion or spinal problems, or pelvic pain unrelated to menstrual cramps may signal gynecological trouble. Endometriosis (a condition in which the uterine lining grows outside the uterus) and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) are the two most common reasons. PID occurs when bacteria enters the vagina and travels through the cervix to the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. Medication can treat both endometriosis and PID. Some patients with endometriosis may need surgery. Benign tumors, or uterine fibroids, may also cause lower back pain. Doctors can remove them with lasers or by using surgical methods.
Discomfort during intercourse can deprive you of a healthy love life. Treating the conditions that cause this symptom—common culprits are menopause, endometriosis and vaginal infections – can provide relief. During menopause, a decrease in estrogen production can cause vaginal tissues to become dry and less elastic, causing painful intercourse. In this case, water-based lubricants or menopausal therapies such as estrogen cream can help significantly.
Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
Bleeding occurring at any time other than when you would expect to have your menstrual period (or normal bleeding triggered by hormone replacement therapy) could signify fibroids, polyps (benign tumors of the uterine lining), ovarian cysts or, in some cases, endometrial cancer. If you bleed unexpectedly, call your doctor immediately so he or she can get to the source of the bleeding. You should also call if your menstrual bleeding is longer or heavier than normal. This could be a sign of a vaginal infection or adenomyosis, a condition in which cells grow within the muscular wall of the uterus.
Irregular Vaginal Discharge
PID, a yeast infection, or other vaginal infections may cause vaginal discharge. If left untreated, the condition can lead to infertility and pregnancy complications, such as prematurity and low birth weight. For this reason, it is critical to distinguish a yeast infection from other infections before self-treating with an over-the-counter product. If you are unsure about the reason for a discharge, get an accurate diagnosis.
Tenderness, Redness or Itchiness
Vaginal discomfort can be caused by an infection or a Bartholin cyst. A Bartholin cyst is an infection of the glands that lubricate the vagina. When the glands cannot drain properly, a cyst develops that can be surgically removed. Genital herpes produce small, painful blisters in addition to itching. Antiviral drugs suppress symptoms of this sexually transmitted disease, which has no cure. Another cause of vaginal discomfort is vulvodynia, or chronic vulvar pain. Doctors don’t know what causes the condition, but it may be tied to foods high in oxalic acid such as tea, chocolate and some fruits.
Vulvodynia, as well as fibroids, yeast infections, urinary tract infections (UTI) may make urinating difficult or painful. Women with UTIs feel the need to urinate frequently and with urgency, but only release a small amount of urine. UTIs are caused by bacteria that irritate the urinary tract. Antibiotics usually clear the infection in three days. Painful urination together with back pain just above the waist may be a sign of an acute kidney infection and requires prompt treatment.
For information on our obstetrician/gynecologists and other specialists in women’s health, visit us online at WCTHN.org or call 1-800-482-1387.
About Western Connecticut Health Network
Western Connecticut Health Network is the region’s premiere, patient-centered health care organization serving residents of Western Connecticut and adjacent New York. The organization is anchored by two nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital, as well as their affiliated organizations. In addition to the two hospitals, the continuum of care offered includes the following affiliates:
Western Connecticut Health Network has centers of excellence in women’s health, cardiovascular and cancer services; minimally invasive and joint and spine surgery; digestive disorders and radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for neonatology with a Level IIIb neonatal intensive care unit and accredited sleep disorder centers. Both hospitals also maintain active clinical research programs, offering clinical trials for patients with cancer and other health concerns.
For more information, visit WesternConnecticutHealthNetwork.org, DanburyHospital.org; NewMilfordHospital.org and share your comments with us Facebook.com/DanburyHospital or Facebook.com/NewMilfordHospital.