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My doctor told me I have a condition called lichen sclerosus. What is lichen sclerosus and what is the treatment?

Lichen sclerosus is a benign inflammatory condition of the skin of the vulva. It can occur in women of any age, but is most common in postmenopausal women. Symptoms include itching and burning with associated pain during intercourse. The surface of the vulvar skin is often extremely thin and may have a paper-like appearance. Because of this, the skin may tear during intercourse and cause pain or bleeding.

Standard initial treatment of lichen sclerosus is application of creams containing high-potency steroids to the affected area. The most common steroid cream is known as clobetasol or Temovate. This cream should be applied to the area twice a day for approximately 2 to 3 weeks, then tapered to once a day, and finally down to occasional use. Most women notice an improvement in symptoms within 1 month of use of the steroid cream. This treatment may be continued on a long-term basis.

What can be done about the lumps in my breasts?

Fibrocystic changes of the breasts are very common, especially from the ages of 20 to 50, and are thought to be directly related to estrogen. Fibrocystic breast masses usually occur on a cyclic basis in relation to the menstrual cycle. They can be quite painful and often appear rapidly with the onset of menses, and then disappear afterward.

The most important characteristic of a fibrocystic lesion of the breast is that it resolves on its own. If your masses/cysts do not resolve, especially after a menstrual cycle, you need to see your physician so that the mass can be further evaluated to assure that it is not a cancerous lesion. This evaluation may necessitate cyst aspiration or biopsy of the mass.

Often people with fibrocystic changes of the breasts notice associated breast tenderness. This pain may be alleviated by wearing a tight bra for support. Although there is no good evidence to support its use, many physicians advocate use of vitamin E and reduction of caffeine to alleviate some of the symptoms.

If you have cysts under the skin, rather than in your breast tissue, you may need other treatments. You should see your physician to exclude this possibility.

I have had three bladder infections in the last three months. What should I do about it? Can these be prevented?

Bladder infections or urinary tract infections are also known as cystitis. Women often notice an abrupt onset of symptoms, which include burning with urination, urinating more frequently than usual, and abdominal pain. If a urinary tract infection has spread to the kidneys (also known as pyelonephritis) a woman may experience fever and back pain.

Urinary tract infections are caused by spread of bacteria that normally reside in the rectum into the urethra and bladder. Several situations increase your risk of getting a urinary tract infection, among them, recent intercourse, delayed emptying of your bladder after intercourse, and use of a diaphragm.

Many women with one urinary tract infection will have multiple urinary tract infections. Your physician will grow out your urine before and after treatment to be sure treatment is completely irradicating the bacteria. Additionally, it may be helpful to empty your bladder completely after each episode of intercourse. The ultimate treatment for recurrent urinary tract infections will be up to your doctor. She may recommend staying on a medicine that suppresses bacteria consistently, taking medication after intercourse, or taking medication as soon as you notice symptoms.

What are the effects of antibiotic use on birth control pills?

Some antibiotics and certain other medications have the potential to reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Some antibiotics slightly reduce the amount of hormones absorbed by the system.

Among the suspect antibiotics are those in the penicillin family, including penicillin, amoxicillin, and ampicillin; tetracycline, and related drugs such as doxycycline and erythromycin. Some epilepsy drugs, tranquilizers, barbiturates, anti-inflammatories, and laxatives may also reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. The same effect may also occur if you have an intestinal illness that causes diarrhea or vomiting.

What causes yeast infections, and can they be prevented?

It is thought that 45% to 75% of women experience yeast infections (also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis) in their lifetime. It is thought that 45% to 75% of women experience yeast infections (also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis) in their lifetime. In over 80% of cases, infection is caused by an orgainism known as Candida albicans. This is a fungus that resides in the vagina of a significant number of women. Several situations allow overgrowth of Candida albicans including recent antibiotic use, pregnancy, and diabetes.

The signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection often include itching, a thick white vaginal discharge often described as being similar to cottage-cheese, and redness of the vulvar and vaginal areas.

Treatment of a yeast infection is variable. The most common treatment involves using a topical antifungal cream in the vaginal area (such as Gyne-Lotrimin or Monistat). An applicator full of cream is placed in the vagina at bedtime from 1 to 7 days. The medication can be obtained over-the-counter, but should only be used by someone who has been diagnosed by a physician or has had similar symptoms in the past where a diagnosis was made. An oral treatment is now available by prescription.

If you have chronic yeast infections, your physician may start you on a monthly regimen of treatment, usually for a total of 6 months.

What could be a possible problem when blood is found in the urine? My sister is a 53-year old & blood was detected in her urine.

Blood in the urine is called hematuria and should never be ignored. It is important to determine exactly where the blood is coming from. In women, the blood may appear to be in the urine when it is actually coming from the vagina or rectum. Discoloration from drugs or foods can mimic hematuria. A catheterized urine sample is an important diagnostic test to make sure that the discoloration is really blood and that the bleeding is coming from the bladder. Also, there is a condition called microscopic hematuria, in which the urine has microscopic amounts of blood that cannot be seen with the naked eye. In the majority of cases tests will be negative and no treatment is necessary. However, before you can make this diagnosis, other more serious causes must be eliminated.

Blood in the urine should never be ignored. It is important to see your physician and have the problem isolated and treated.

What is Dysplasia?

Dysplasia is considered a precancerous cell type. However, if the dysplasia is classified as low-grade squamous dysplasia, then about 30% of the time, the abnormal cells will disappear without treatment.

I have been trying to get pregnant for about two years. My doctor told me he thought I had endometriosis. How would I know?

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus (the endometrium) spreads and implants in areas outside of the uterus. Often the site of the implantation is somewhere in the abdominal cavity. In patients with endometriosis, these implants of endometrium grow on a cyclic basis just as the normal endometrium does. When the normal endometrium sheds during your menstrual cycle causing your period, so do these endometrial implants. They can cause a small amount of bleeding within your abdominal cavity which results in pain.

Symptoms of endometriosis are often described as menstrual cramping and pain that begins before the onset of menstrual bleeding, and continues through the menstrual cycle. The severity of endometriosis often does not correlate with the degree of pain experienced with endometriosis. Often women with a small amount of endometriosis will have significant cyclic pain, and often women with a large amount of endometriosis will have minimal pain. Endometriosis is often seen in women who previously had pain-free menstrual cycles, and have gradually noticed a worsening in their pain.

The definitive diagnosis of endometriosis can only be made through surgery where the endometriotic lesions can be seen and sometimes biopsied to make the diagnosis.

I would like to know the difference between taking oral estrogen/progesterone versus the patch.

The difference between oral hormones and transdermal hormones involves the route of absorption. Oral hormones are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and metabolized in the liver. Transdermal hormones, however, are directly absorbed into the blood stream. Therefore the difference between the two routes may account for some difference in gastrointestinal symptoms. Additionally, for people with elevated triglyceride levels, transdermal hormones have been found to be beneficial.

To date, hormone replacement therapy has not been linked to weight loss or weight gain. There is also no evidence to suggest hair loss or acne are related to the low levels of hormones supplied by hormone replacement therapy. The progesterone component of hormone replacement therapy has been associated with bloating. However, it is not safe to take estrogen without progesterone unless you have had a hysterectomy. Sometimes changing the type of progesterone used can be of benefit.

It is unlikely that changing from oral to transdermal hormone replacement therapy will improve all of your symptoms.