By Nohémie Mawaka.
The 21st century may be the most liberal and sexually oriented generation in history. Sex sells and the human body is now displayed as an object, where promiscuity has become a norm, that of course, is according to my own bias perspective. Although the commonality of a promiscuous lifestyle is more prevalent in our post-modern world, many still fail to discuss the diseases that may come from this way of living. When I say diseases, I don’t mean Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). What I am referring to, are more simplistic infections that occur in the human genital area when exposed to bacteria and poor hygienic habits. Women tend to be more prone to genital infections. This of course, is possibly due to the smaller urinary track that woman have. That being said, with this post, we will attempt to evaluate infections among both genders.
First I will discuss the female gender in regards to disease. The most common, not to mention, the most voiced genital infirmity is yeast infection. If you are anything like me, and did not know what a yeast infection consisted of, or how it is linked to the vagina, please, feel free to join the club. According to Women’s Health of America, Yeast infections occur when there is a large concentration of fungus Candida Albicans growing in the women’s vulva (1). Before proceeding, let’s break down some basic scientific terminology. Fungus in this case, is a type of bacteria that is most found in mushrooms, which may also develop into yeast. Comparatively, yeast is a very old bacteria that was originally used for baking in fermentation of bread by producing Carbon dioxide, as well as metabolizing (undergo change) natural sugar into alcohol to make beer and wine. As a bacterium, it is a great organic compound that does not need sunlight to grow, but can still produce energy. The vulva is simply the external genital area of a woman’s body. With this in mind, there are always small amounts of yeast in the vagina; moreover, when its growth becomes too much, an infection will occur. The signs of infection are evident: burning sensations, redness, and swelling of the vagina or vulva. Likewise, pain while urinating, during sexual intercourse, along with soreness, and thick discharges of white vagina fluid that harbors an unpleasant smell, are signs of a yeast infection. Provided that, yeast infections are common among women; the Women Health organization stated that 75% of women have this infection two or three times in their lifetime (7). There are many bad habits that us 21st century woman encompass that does not help in preserving healthy genitals. Many healthy practices are encouraged to avoid infection: avoid douches, change pads and tampons regularly during menstrual period, wear underwear that dries quickly and made of synthetic fibers of cotton material, and change quickly out of swimsuits. But, this should not be an excuse not to report your local doctor for check ups. If you are concerned about being potentially infected, it may or may not be linked to another illness or potentially an STI. A basic rule of thumb is: when in doubt, give your doctor a little visit; they are paid to make sure that you stay alive and well. Now, there are several other infections related to inflammation of the vagina such as Vaginitis, or infections of the vulva such as vulvovaginitis; that will later be discussed, but as for now, the lesson of the day states that: any abnormal itching, irregular discharge and unpleasant discomfort during intercourse or urination in the genital area, is a potential sign of an infection and should be reported to your local doctor for a check-up. Among the male gender there are also many prevalent infections that I will explore, and dissect. Orchitis and Epididymitis are two of the most distinct and voiced genital infections common among males, although, they are not necessarily STI (Sexual Transmitted Infection). Another key medical term to understand is the word inflammation, which is surprisingly broad. I always thought inflammation was equated to irritation, or swelling of some sort; although, this is true to some extent, it encompasses far more than just that. To keep it simple, an inflammation can be perceived as your body’s immune system reacting to an external attack or possible illness. Through the process of inflammation, the immune system tries to heal, and protect itself by inflaming. Orchitis is an inflammation of the male testes due to infection of several viruses and bacteria, where Mumps is the most common one the many. The latter is linked to the Parotitis epidemic, which is an inflammation of the parotid glands: a large part of the salivary glands, found at the back of the mouth on both sides of the face. Although Mumps viral disease has been eliminated in most developed countries through vaccination, Orchitis still remains common among boys for three to six days after puberty.
Likewise, it is a risk factor for men older than forty-five, among those who are not vaccinated, men who have urinary tract infections and those who use urinary catheter (a tube used to drain the bladder, common among elders or those with dementia). Similarly, when testicles are inflamed they are called epididymorchitis (2). The first half of this word refers to epididymitis: an infection of the epididymis (long tube that is found behind the testes that stores and collects sperm). It is most common among males ages 14 to 35, and strongly related to gonorrhea and chlamydia. A higher risk factor to having epididymitis has been found among those that are uncircumcised (removal of foreskin on the male penis), problems with urinary tracts and STI. What I find to be most fascinating about epididymitits is that tuberculosis (an infectious disease of the lungs) has been found to cause epididymitis as well as orchitis. When the potential viral effect of tuberculosis on epididymitis was discovered in the later nineties, many U.S authorities showed great concern for American male citizens because of the mass immigration of those coming from third world countries that were potential carriers of tuberculosis (3). Now most people in Western societies no longer speak of tuberculosis. It has been eliminated, but still remains common in third world countries. Thank God for vaccinations right? But as advised by many, visiting a doctor for a medical check-up in case you may be infected with an infection of some sort is wise. Lowering change in sexual partners without using condoms is highly advised as a means to lower chances of being infected. Genital infections should not be a subject of shame or awkwardness, it is for your own benefit to make sure that you are not infected and do not transmit it to others.
Edited by: Stewart Escalona
1. Vaginal Yeast infections. U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, womenshealth.gov.
2. M.S. Khan, M.S. Humayoon, M.S. Al Manee. 1989. Epididymo-orchitis and Brucellosis. British Journal o Urology. Volume 63, p. 87-89.
3. Kim SH, Pollack HM, Cho KS, Pollack MS, Han MC. 1993. Tuberculous epididymitis and epididymo-orchitis: sonographic findings. The Journal of Urology, 150(1): 81-84.