Dealing with a dreaded infection

06/20/2009 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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It is difficult for me to determine when something is genuinely wrong with my vulva & vagina.

I have a pretty broad range of what “Normal” feels like. Whether or not this range is broader than that of the average female-bodied person, I do not know. I’ve experienced painful sex and may continue have run-ins with it for the rest of my life – although my hope & goal is that this will become increasingly rare & manageable. I’ve dealt with long-term vulvar itching. I know I struggle to control my pelvic floor muscles & that if they are left to their own devices, they tend to constrict & tighten.

TMI follows…

For me personally, some amount of discharge is healthy & normal, even if it is slightly discolored. After I dilate, I always have “Post-lube” discharge the next morning.
Some vaginal smells are normal, and the smell will change depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle. Diet also influences the odor.
I should be able to predict, to a certain extent, when I am about to notice a shift in my discharge & smell. So long as things stay within the bounds of normal, I don’t worry too much.
Even some amount of discomfort with sitting or intercourse may be normal for me. Maybe I sat down for too long. Maybe my muscles are tensing. Whatever. Just chalk it up to the pelvic floor dysfunction or maybe some residual vulvodynia. Ease up on whatever activity I was about to enjoy and move on.

The problem is determining when things fall out of the range of normal for me. Every body is different. What’s normal for me, might very well be abnormal to another healthy female-bodied person.

And even my vulva & vagina have little idiosyncrasies. Maybe one day I’m a little bit itchy, or maybe I wasn’t able to use a larger dilator due (In which case, I sometimes wonder – is this pain due to the vaginismus or the residual vulvodynia? Or something else, like stress? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.)

Or maybe one day I am just sitting there and I start noticing that my vulva is starting to feel Hot. And not the sexy kind of hot. It’s kind of annoying actually… what’s going on here… I’m not familiar with this sensation…

I have long dreaded this moment, the moment where my vulva’s activities fall out of normal range. In this case, it started with a sensation of heat.

How do I know whether or not a sensation of heat is normal for others?
How do I know if it’s a sign of infection or not?
How do I know it’s not something hormonal?
How long should I wait to see if the sensation goes away?
What am I supposed to do about it if there is no infection?
What am I supposed to do about it if the sensation does not go away?

The other problem I have is, thus far my vaginal infections rarely act like textbook cases. I’ve had bacterial vaginosis and possibly a yeast infection or two before. They do not closely match the most common descriptions found online. Yeast infections typically involve cottage cheese white discharge, redness & itching or burning. Bacterial vaginosis is harder to notice, but if there are any signs, it may involve an abundance of smelly gray or green discharge. Or not much discharge at all, which is part of the problem when trying to figure out if I have one.

The sensation of heat did not go away after 48 hours. Is 48 hours enough time for me to wait to see if it’s just my body and not some outside force? Is losing sleep due to mild vulvar discomfort enough of a reason to go to the gynecologist? I don’t want to return there so soon after my recent wellness exam (at which I was declared healthy, with a normal pap smear, and with “Significant improvement” noted compared to my last visit 3 years ago.) I feel embarrassed about returning there so soon. I don’t mean to waste the doctor’s time if it really is the vulvodynia or pelvic floor acting up, because there’s not much she can do for me about that.

I went anyway. I didn’t want to risk letting a potential infection go untreated, because it probably wouldn’t go away on its own. Scheduled an emergency drop-in with the doctor, took off from work early & requested some swabs to test for infection. Honestly, I did not expect there to be any infection. I told myself I would feel better knowing.

Sure enough, two days later, I got the swab results back.

I have a vaginal infection.

Two vaginal infections.

I lied.
I don’t feel any better knowing.

I have bacterial vaginosis and a yeast infection. Exactly which species of bacteria & yeast, I do not know. I forgot to ask which strain of bacteria has tipped the balance in my vagina & the swabs did not screen for the exact species of Candida, of which there are many (although some are more common problem-starters.)

I am in no pain.
I am not itching.
I don’t feel much, aside from my vulva feeling “Hot.” It just feels “Hot” & there’s actually very little (or no) redness. (ETA 6/21: now there’s more redness on the right side by the 2 o’clock & 5 o’clock points which worries me quite a lot…)
There is some discharge, but for this part of my cycle, that’s normal. My only other warning sign was that this ovulation discharge is of poor quality & feels oily.
And the inside of my vagina feels just fine. It’s all in the vulva. It’s all vestibule discomfort.

Why don’t I feel anything in my vagina? That is where the infection is coming from. I do not understand why I feel the discomfort on the outside instead of the inside. Is that normal? Or is my vestibule still hypersensitive?

I do not know why I have two vaginal infections. I’ve had no recent sexual activity with a partner. The recent gynecological wellness exam I referred to earlier, was a few weeks after having partnered sexual activity including intercourse. I felt fine at the wellness exam & was apparently healthy – no infections noted, and certainly no symptoms.

So what happened, what changed? Did I do something wrong dilating? Did I use too much laundry detergent on my clothes? Did I not shower quickly enough after exercising & sweating? Was I somehow negligent in trying to stay healthy? I don’t know. I didn’t think so.

I feel embarrassed, vulnerable and fearful… are these feelings normal after being diagnosed with a vaginal infection? Am I over thinking things again? Lots of women have infections eventually. Some of the vulvar pain bloggers have also dealt with infections. I am not immune.
What if this infection triggers a flare & a return of the vulvodynia? What if my nerve endings stay inflamed for too long? What if the medication doesn’t work? What if I have a bad reaction to the medication? I’ve never used topical antifungals before so how would I know whether I’m sensitive to them?

For now I need to take medication. Oral antibiotic Flagyl (what if it doesn’t work?) then an antifungal vaginal cream (what if I have a bad reaction to it?) I am absolutely scared out of my mind about using the cream & I am going to try to test patch a tiny amount before I use a whole dose. I am also going to see if I can ask the gyno to prescribe an oral tablet, just in case I do react to a small amount of the cream (what if she refuses?)

I am disinclined to try the natural home remedies, other than possibly acupuncture as a compliment to these medications. I’m scared of using the cream, but I’m scared of douching with any solution, and I’m scared of putting yogurt or boric acid into my vagina, too. I also refuse to try any of the “Cures” I keep seeing spammed allover the internet.

I am hoping that I recover from this with relative ease… but in the back of my mind there is the nagging fear of returning to the way things were a few years ago.

1 Comment »

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  1. ::hugs:: Even though I’m still stuck in vulvodynia, I know how you must feel. I’d be terrified of returning to the pain too. I hope the cream doesn’t bother you too much — I feel like it would’ve made more sense for your doctor to give you the pill since you have a history of vulvodynia. I read in your later post that you’re still fighting the infections — I hope they don’t stick around too much longer!!! :/

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