The Female System and Disorders

The Female System and Disorders

The female reproducive system includes the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

The vagina or birth canal is the muscular passage leading from the outside of the body to the uterus. It measures four to five inches long and normally the sides lie close together, however during sexual intercourse, they seperate to accommodate the male penis. During childbirth they stretch to allow the baby to emerge. It has few nerve endings, and most are located near the opening to the outside of the body. Within the vagina, little can be felt but pressure.

The vagina is naturally moist, althought the quanity and quality can vary. This natural lubrication is a self-cleansing process that makes douching normally unnecessary.

The cevix is the narrow opening of the uterus. It projects into the upper end of the vagina. It connected the vagina and uterus. This canal is traversed by sperm on their way to fertilize the egg, by menstrual discharge and babies leaving the uterus.

The uterus is a muscular pear-shaped organ, normally the size of a lemon. The uterus walls stretch considerably as a fetus develope within the uterus and in late pregnancy may be as large as a medium-sized watermellon. The rich, soft lining of the uterus (the endometrium)is renewed each month; it sloths off and leaves the body as menstral discharge.

Fallopian Tubes
At the upper end of the uterus are the openings of the fallopian tubes, which extend back to the ovaries. Contraception occurs in the Fallopian Tubes, which helps direct the sperm and propel the egg into the uterus.

The ovaries are small, firm and roughly egg shaped. Once a month they produce an egg. (two or more on rare occasions) Ovulation occurs when the egg matures and passes from an ovary into the fallopian tube. Fertilization occus when sperm penetrates the egg. The ovaries also produce reproductive hormones.

Cervical Polyps
Cervical polyps are generally benign tumors that may appear at any time after beginning menstruation. They may occur anywhere in the cervix, and areusually less than one inch long.

Cervicitis and Cervical Erosion
Among the most common of all female disorders, cervicitis is inflammation of the cervix, the neck of the uterus. The inflammation may be caused by a specific infection (gonorrhea, syphilis) or non-specific bacterial infection. Pregnancy and childbirth may be predisposing factors. In cervicitis the cervical mucus becomes thin and clear. The woman may experience low back pain, painful periods, abnormal vaginal bleeding and painfull intercourse, Some cases clear themselves, others require anti-infective vaginal ointments and creams. Other's require oral antibiotics. Still others require D & C. Cervicitis may or may not be accompanied by cervical erosion. Erosion occurs when some of the tissue that lines the inner part of the cervix (columnar epithelium) spreads out and replaces the stronger tissue (squamous epithelium) that normally covers the cervix and lines the vagina. The word erosion in this instant does not refer to any wearing away but instead to the replacement of one kind of tissue by another.

A cystocele is a protrusion of the urinary bladder through the vaginal wall. The conditions may result from laceration, childbirth or damage to the vaginal wall. Symptoms include a feeling of vaginal fullness and looseness. The sensation of the presence of urine every after voiding and a slight bulge into the vagina may be noted. Cystocele must be surgical corrected or in the elderly and where surgery not possible, the insertion of a rubber pessary into the vagina to support the cystocele.

Endometriosis is the presence of uterine mucous tissue (endometriium) in an abnormal location. It usually involves the visceral peritoneal surfaces and may cause severe pelvic pin, abnormal bleeding and possibly infertility, The tissue may be found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes and over the uterus. The major symptom is acute pelvic pain especially before menses and increases in severity until menstrual flow has ceased. However, some patients do not experience pain. Depending on the severity of the condition and the woman's age and wishes about bearing children, endometriosis may be treated mdically with hormones or surgically with hysterectomy.

Menstrual Disorders
*Amenorrhea- medical term used to describe absence of periods. This can be Primary Amenorrhea (hormonal, congenital) or Secondary (pregnant, breast feeding, stress, hysterectomy)
*Dysmenorrhea- medical term for painful periods.
*Hypermenorrhea- abnormally long periods
*Menorrhagia-medical term for excessive bleeding during period.
*Oligomenorrhea- infrequent periods
*Polymenorrhea-period occurring more often that 35 -30 day cycle.

Menopausal Disorders

Inflammation of the ovaries.

Inflammation of the fallopian tubes.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
PID is a serious infection that affects women's reproductive organs. It is a disorder that is seen with increasing frequency and is now a leading cause of infertility. When promptly diagnosed, PID usually responds favorably to a broad spectrum antibotics. Complete bed rest for at least one week may be helpful and the patient should abstain from sexual intercourse for at least two weeks to allow the infected area to heal.

Sexual Transmitted Diseases
See special section on STD's.

One of the most frequent forms of vaginitis is caused by trichomonas vaginalis, a single-cell micro-organism, which may affect the urinary tract as well as the vagina. It is characterized by vaginal itching and burning and a heavy greenish-yellow discharge with an unpleasant fishy oder.

In men, trichomonads can remain inactive and usually produce no smyptoms at all, but they occasionally may cause a slight burning sensation during urination. The treatment requires oral antibiotics given to both the male and female partner. All medication must be taken for the prescribed days. Because the drug interferes with the
way the body metabolizes Alcohol, no alcohol in any form or amount should be ingested during treatment.

Vaginitis is an umbrella term used to cover many vaginal infections. It can refer to candida albicans (yeast infection) or as non-specific vaginitis. The vagina is a warm, moist environment that is ideal for many infecting microorganisms. Many of the organisms normally live in the vagina without causing a problem, very frequently however, an overgrowth or invasion can result in the itching, burning, discharge or other symptoms characteristic of vaginitis. In most cases
vaginitis is more annoying and uncomfortable than medically serious. The normal acid enviroment of the vagina keeps the growth of harmful organisms at bay. The normal acidity may be altered by frequent douching, oral contraceptives, a change in hormonal balance, antibiotics, or irritating tampons. Other contributing factors include sexual activity with infected partner or carrier of organisms, tight slacks, pantyhose, tight panties or obesity. When experiencing symptoms DO NOT DOUCE just before seeing your
Doctor. This may destroy material he/she needs for diagnosis. Most vaginal infections are treatable by medication and rarely lead to serious medical problems.

Atrophic Vaginitis
In older women, vaginitis is often due to dryness and thinning of vaginal tissue following menopause. This is called atrophic vaginitis and results in itching and painful intercourse. Discuss with your Doctor. He/she can give you a lubricating cream or jelly to relieve
symptoms and discus hormone replacement.

This is characterized much the same as vaginitis. Major difference is that it also affects the vulva.

Summing Up
While many of the ITIS's discussed above primarily affect the female and while MEN may suffer no symptoms at all, they often harbor the causative microorganisms and should be treated along with their famale sex partner(s) to avoid re-infection .

Practice good hygiene. Shower or wash thoroughly before and after intercourse. This includes all body parts used including hands and/or mouth.

**Information herein is for information only and is in no intended to replace your Doctor or any other Health Care Provider. If symptoms present, call your Doctor immediately.**

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