Toxic shock syndrome in menstruating women decreases

Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile speaks to Sowetan about menstrual health
Dr Nokukhanya Khanyile speaks to Sowetan about menstrual health
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Cases of toxic shock syndrome have dwindled over the years because tampon manufacturers have cut the production of super-absorbent tampons which allowed women to keep tampons inserted for longer.  

Dr Nokhukhanya Khanyile who is a independent medical practitioner and a medical officer explains toxic shock syndrome (TSS) as a condition when a bacteria called staphylococcus aureus or streptococcus pyogenes finds it way into the bloodstream.

“Toxic shock syndrome is a very serious, life-threatening condition that is caused when the toxins produced by bacteria called staphylococcus aureus or streptococcus pyogenes get access to the blood stream. Multiple organs are involved, and you may require surgery or prolonged hospital admission to help you recover. Both men and women, young and old, menstruating or not, can get TSS,”        

In menstruating women, TSS is usually caused by leaving a tampon inserted in the vagina for too long.

“This bacteria is present in everyone so it is important to change tampons every six-eight hours to avoid the bacteria overgrowing,” she said. “I have seen cases documented in literature where people have had organ failure because of the syndrome.” 

Khanyile said the decrease in TSS in menstruating women is also due to an increase in awareness of the condition, particularly when it comes to tampon use.

“The rates of toxic shock syndrome associated with menstruation have been declining over the years due to increasing awareness about the symptoms, improved access to information about maintaining menstrual hygiene as well as better access to clean water and electricity,” she said.

Khanyile said symptoms include rash, fever, severe body pain, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, low blood pressure and changes in mental health.

Women can prevent the syndrome by having good menstrual hygiene and changing tampons every 6-8 hours. 

“Clean your vagina with pure water, remember the vagina is meant to be acidic not alkaline. Have a good diet and drink water,” she said.

Khanyile also said if a woman is having an abnormal discharge, it is important to go to the doctor.

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