Dear Diana, I feel embarrassed to write to you but I have an irritation in my intimate parts which is worrying me. I wash regularly ‘down there’ and have always been a stickler for hygiene. Now though I’m concerned as this itchiness has been going on for a couple of weeks and I’ve never had anything like this before? [Name withheld]
Oh dear, well you know that maintaining hygiene of intimate female parts keeps us fresh and clean and avoids unpleasant health problems. But are you using ‘specialist products’? Ordinary soaps and shower gels are designed to maintain a natural pH of the skin (5.5) but the pH of a normal vagina is 3.8 to 4.5 with many gynecologists advising women to use only warm water. Many women experience an occasional bout of vaginal thrush, due to an infection of fungal yeast called candida. Thrush occurs when the pH levels in the vagina are unbalanced due to such things as poor diet, menstrual blood and antibiotics. Many cleansing products are too harsh and remove the natural moisture the vagina uses to balance pH levels.
Over cleansing gives the candida fungus a chance to thrive, so don’t use normal scented soaps, wipes or douches during infection. Feminine hygiene products are readily available from your pharmacist to prevent infections and itches in your intimate areas, and will safely nurture the feeling of freshness, vital for every woman.
Options for “lady parts” treatments include tablets taken by mouth, or anti-thrush pessaries inserted into the vagina. Over the counter antifungal thrush medicines and creams include Vagisil, CandiGONE, Caneston and VagiQUICK.
Some women eat probiotic yoghurt or supplements to prevent vaginal thrush but there is insufficient evidence to support this.