Written by Gayatri Aich
Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is extremely essential for every menstruator and yet remains in a terrible condition in a large section of the country. An absence of hygienic conditions becomes a huge problem for those who menstruate, and poor menstrual hygiene has multiple health risks associated with it.
The lack of hygienic conditions added with ignorance and socio-cultural taboos and restrictions surrounding menstruation lead to various kinds of health issues, some of which have been discussed below:
The following are the top five health risks of poor menstrual hygiene:
Urinary tract infection (UTI): A urinary tract infection is an infection that could develop in any or all parts of the urinary system – the urethra, the bladder, the ureters, and/or the kidneys. UTIs that are not spread beyond the bladder are painful but can be treated immediately with medication. However, infections that reach the kidneys have serious consequences. Symptoms of UTI include a persistent need to urinate, a burn during urination, urine that is red, brownish or bright pink and with a strong smell, and pelvic ache. The risks that come with UTI include recurring infections, permanent damage in the kidneys, urethral narrowing, and sepsis.
Vaginal yeast infection: A vaginal yeast infection (also known as vaginal candidiasis) is fungal, and causes discharge, irritation along with itchiness in the vagina and the vulva. Vaginal yeast infection is treated with medication, and a longer period of treatment is required in cases of recurring vaginal yeast infections. Symptoms include irritation, itchiness, burning during sexual intercourse and urination, swelling of the vulva, vaginal soreness and ache along with rashes, thick white discharge or watery discharge from the vagina.
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS): Although rare, but toxic shock syndrome is a serious medical condition caused due to bacterial infection. A bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus when in the bloodstream, produces toxins. Toxic shock syndrome is an emergency condition that requires immediate treatment. An intravenous (IV) antibiotic is generally used by the doctor, with the PICC line. Any foreign object stuck inside the vagina is removed. In some cases, a gamma globulin injection and/or medication for stabilising the blood pressure are used. Symptoms of TSS include low blood pressure, sudden fever, nausea, diarrhoea, muscle aches, seizures, etc.
Vulvovaginitis: Vulvovaginitis is a medical condition that causes infection or inflammation of the vagina and the vulva. This condition is also known as vulvitis or vaginitis. Causes include bacteria, yeast infection, parasites, and STIs. Vulvovaginitis has various treatments depending on the organism causing the condition. Symptoms include irritation, itching, increased vaginal discharge with a strong smell, inflammation of the labia, etc.
Cervical cancer: Cervical cancer begins in the cells of the cervix, which is a hollow cylindrical part of the body that connects the vagina to the lower portion of the uterus. Treatment of cervical cancer is done using surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or targeted therapy. Symptoms of cervical cancer include unusual bleeding, pelvis pain, pain or burn during urination, unusual vaginal discharge.
The above-mentioned medical conditions affect menstruators across age groups. Some of these conditions may have overlapping symptoms. Therefore, it is always advisable to see the doctor whenever any unusual symptoms are noticed, to ensure quick diagnosis and immediate treatment.