Women’s intimate health is an area often overlooked by us females because of the nature of the ailments. Often embarrassing and distressing to discuss, women have, for years in some cases, suffered in silence with complaints that can be cured if only they found the words or courage to open a dialogue either with their doctor, health care provider, pharmacist or indeed their close female friends. In the next few issues of this health column, we plan to open discourse about female health by presenting you, the female reader with information on how to identify conditions and more importantly the treatments available to help alleviate and cure ailments so that you can continue to live your life to its fullest without worrying about that ‘embarrassing’ condition. In this issue we discuss Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), what it is, how to identify it and more importantly the newest treatment available over the counter to cure it.
If there is one thing us women are good at, especially with the explosion of health sites on the internet, it is self-diagnosis. This is especially true of conditions that cause us to feel awkward or embarrassed when discussing them with our doctor. One such condition often misdiagnosed is Bacterial Vaginosis. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a condition caused by an imbalance in the different types of bacteria normally found in the vagina. However it is often identified as ‘Thrush’ by women themselves, because the symptoms share some of the same characteristics. As a result, treatment will not always result in the problem being resolved.
The vagina normally contains many different types of bacteria – some of these bacteria are considered to be good or friendly because they help keep the vagina healthy and others are potentially harmful. There is a delicate balance between the two. Lactic acid bacteria (also known as lactobacilli) are friendly bacteria. They produce small amounts of acid which means the vagina is normally slightly acidic (with a ph level of 4.5 – 5) and this helps to keep the numbers of harmful bacteria under control. If the harmful bacteria are not kept under control, they overpower the good bacteria and can cause BV. Simply put; that’s it! There is no more untoward reason for this type of common infection. It is not a sexually transmitted condition, it is not an indication of poor hygiene (in fact, excessive washing can make the condition worse) and above all it is very common.
What are the symptoms of BV Bacterial Vaginosis.
Typically, BV causes a watery, grey white vaginal discharge which can have an unpleasant (fishy) smell. This is different from the natural and quite normal odourless discharge from the vagina. In 2006, a treatment for BV was launched in Denmark and has been transforming the lives of women suffering from long-term BV ever since. Because of its common misdiagnosis, prior to this treatment being introduced, BV was a recurring condition. This treatment was launched in the UK last year and is now launching in Ireland which is fantastic news for women. In test case studies available at www.ladybalance.co.uk, some women have been suffering in silence for decades but having been involved in the trials of this new treatment have reported a vast and liberating improvement. The trials and evaluations conducted prior to the release of the product in the UK also found that women suffering other symptoms also reported improvement in their conditions. These included women with odourless vaginal discharge, women suffering with vaginal itching and irritation and women suffering from vaginal dryness.
Anna Britton, MD of Concept Healthcare, the company responsible for bringing LadyBalance to Ireland told us “Some of the stories we have heard from users of LadyBalance have been heart-breaking, with a recent case study highlighting that one lady was in fact suffering in silence for 30 years, while another for years thought she’d never feel normal again or have a normal sex life, as physical intimacy with her partner was too painful.” Anna continued “I think it is important to ‘normalise’ women’s issues and not be afraid to talk about them.”
Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common type of vaginal infection in women of reproductive age, accounting for 45% of all vulvovaginal infections and affecting up to 20% of pregnant women, while up to half of post-menopausal women suffer from vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness can affect more than sexual intimacy often having a detrimental effect on everyday life; it can be uncomfortable to sit, stand, exercise, urinate or even work in extreme cases.
Mr Simon Emery, one of the UK’s eminent Uro/gynaecologists has been working with Anna Britton to bring LadyBalance to the attention of both the medical profession and to women in general. Speaking to us, Simon Emery said “I see great potential with LadyBalance, helping to empower women to get their lives back, restoring both their physical and emotional wellbeing. The beauty of LadyBalance is that it can be used to treat an existing infection or prevent future infection.”
LadyBalance is available in Ireland now as an over-the-counter medication which is fantastic news for women, both young and not so young. Available from chemists and pharmacies nationwide including selected Hickeys Pharmacy Group, Health Express, Tesco Pharmacy, McCabes Group to name a few, it is an over the counter discreet elegant package of 12 pesarys. Said Anne, “We wanted to make the sure LadyBalance was presented in a ladylike, tasteful and inconspicuous packaging ensuring women could pop it in their shopping trolley or basket without the risk of embarrassment. I think we have succeeded in that.” For more information about BV and LadyBalance please visit www.ladybalance.co.uk.