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Feminine Health Terms

A

Anti-Fungal Medication: A drug used to treat fungal infections. The medication works by inhibiting the growth of fungus. Anti-fungal medications for vaginal yeast infections include fluconazole, miconazole and clotrimazole.

Anti-Itch Creme: A topical cream used to relieve itchiness. For many women suffering from a vaginal infection, one of the first symptoms they experience is itching of the vulva. Anti-itch medications work by relieving the itch. Common anti-itch creams contain an active ingredient such as benzocaine, which anaesthetizes itch nerves.

Anus: The opening of the rectum to the outside of the body.

B

Bacterial Vaginosis: A vaginal condition due to an overgrowth of certain bacteria which normally exist in the vagina and the most common vaginal infection in the United States. It is also commonly referred to as BV. Symptoms can include a vaginal discharge, which can have a fishy odor (especially after intercourse), and sometimes itching or burning. BV requires a visit to a healthcare professional and treatment options include prescription vaginal or oral antibiotics.

Bartholin's Glands: A pair of pea-sized glands on either side of the vaginal opening at the base of the labia minora. They are not visible and they assist in lubrication. Bartholin’s glands secrete a small amount of fluid that moistens the area, however most lubrication for sexual arousal comes from the vagina.

C

Clitoris: A small, sensitive erectile organ located at the top of the vulva. The clitoris is highly sensitive and functions solely to induce sexual pleasure. It is the body part with the most nerve endings sensitive to touch.

Clitorial Hood: A cover of skin overlying the clitoris at its upper most point. It is much less sensitive than the clitoris itself.

L

Labia Majora: The larger (major) outside pair of labia (lips) of the vulva.

Labia Minora: The smaller (minor) inside pair of labia (lips) of the vulva.

P

Perineum: The area between the anus and the vaginal opening.

T

Thrush: Yeast infection of the mouth and throat, characterized by patches of white, usually caused by the fungus Candida albicans. Thrush is usually a minor and easily addressed problem, but it can be more serious for those with immune system disorders. Treatment is with antifungal medications.

Trichomoniasis: A common sexually transmitted infection (STI) sometimes referred to as "trich" that affects 2 - 3 million Americans yearly. For sexually active young women, it is the most common, curable STD. It is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis, and is an infection of the urogenital tract. The vagina is the most common site of infection in women, and the urethra (urine canal) is the most common site of infection in men. The parasite is sexually transmitted through penis-to-vagina intercourse or vulva-to-vulva (female external genital organs) contact with an infected partner. Women can acquire the disease from infected men or women, but men usually contract it only from infected women. Symptoms for women include a frothy, yellow-green vaginal discharge with a strong odor. The infection also may cause discomfort during intercourse and urination, as well as irritation and itching of the vulva. Most men experience no symptoms, however some men may have an irritation inside the penis, mild discharge, or slight burning after urination or ejaculation. Treatment for trichomoniasis is usually with the prescription drug metronidazole, given orally. Partners should also be treated.

U

Urethra: The transport tube leading from the bladder to discharge urine outside the body. In women, the urethra is shorter than in men, and emerges above the vaginal opening.

V

Vagina: The muscular canal extending from the cervix to outside of the body. It is usually six to seven inches in length, and its walls are lined with mucus membrane. It includes two vault-like structures, the anterior (front) vaginal fornix and the posterior (rear) vaginal fornix. The cervix is between the fornixes and protrudes slightly into the vagina.

Vaginal Discharge: Vaginal discharge is normal for women. Vaginal discharge may consist of secretions from several sources including: cells shedding from the vaginal wall, secretions from special vulvar glands, mucus from the cervix, fluid from the Fallopian tubes and uterus, vaginal bacteria by-products and physiologic saline. Also, sweat from the vulvar sweat glands can contribute to the secretions. The amount and appearance of normal vaginal discharge varies throughout the menstrual cycle. An increase in the normal amount of vaginal discharge, an abnormal odor or consistency of the fluid, or pain that accompanies vaginal discharge can all be signs of infection or other disorders. Such disorders can include but are not limited to bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and trichomonas infection.

Vaginal Opening: The opening to the muscular canal extending from the cervix to the outside of the body.

Vestibule: The area between the vaginal opening and the labia minora is the vestibule. In medicine, a vestibule is a space or cavity at the entrance to a canal, channel, tube, or vessel.

Vaginitis: Inflammation of the vagina. A woman with vaginitis may have itching or burning and may notice a discharge. Vaginitis is a common condition, with several types of commonly occurring vaginitis: Candida (yeast infections), bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis vaginitis, and atrophic vaginitis. Symptoms include itching, burning and abnormal vaginal discharge. Treatment is different for each type of vaginitis. There are also factors that can predispose a woman to develop vaginitis.

Vulva: The female external genital organs. This includes the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, tiny glands called Bartholin's glands, and vaginal vestibule.

 

Y

Yeast Infection: Overgrowth of yeast can affect the skin (examples: Athlete’s Foot, nails (onychomycosis), mouth (thrush), digestive tract, esophagus, vagina (vulvovaginal candidiasis) and other parts of the body. Yeast infections occur most frequently in moist areas of the body. Although Candida albicans is the most frequent offender, other types of yeasts are known to cause infections. Diagnosis will vary depending upon the infection site and may include: observation, culturing a stool or mucous sample, or a scraping from the affected area or microscopic examination of a sample. Treatment is by topical or oral antifungal medications.

 

 

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