What Exactly is Toilet Disease?


Toilet disease, Toilet Disease, Toilet Disease !!! I hear this word ever so often but the different interpretations people give to it has made writing this article as challenging as finding an air freshener that works after someone who recently attended an ‘owambe’ party visits your guest toilet.

Toilet disease is a misnomer, one of those words we say as laymen but is an inaccurate use of the term, because Toilet disease is not recorded as a disease in any medical book but everyone seems to talk about it or identify a large number of symptoms with it. Usually it’s women who say they have ‘toilet disease’ and usually it has symptoms that range from itching to awful smelling discharge, boils and what not’s. So enough about the myths and misconceptions, here are the facts.

Fact 1: Yes, you can get some diseases from sitting on a dirty toilet.
While it’s true you can catch diseases off a toilet, this is no different from getting diseases if you sit on a dirty anything with your bare butt and oftentimes these disease actually enter your body from your hands to your mouth (we call it faeco-oral transmission). This is why hand washing after using or visiting a toilet is such a big and important deal. If your hands weren’t so good at transferring germs to your mouth, your skin is actually tougher at fighting other micro organisms off. The actual ‘toilet diseases’ manifest as skin infections, diarrhoea, dysentry, cholera and Typhoid and are either gotten directly from your hand to your mouth or when you cook food with your dirty-infected hands and then feed other innocent people (I see you-mama put). I’m sure this is not what most of you complain about when you say you have toilet disease, so let’s move on to fact 2.

Fact 2: You cannot catch or acquire Sexually Transmitted diseases from the toilet.
Many people who have Sexually Transmitted Diseases also say they got them from the toilet, but the reason why these diseases have been classed as sexually transmitted is because they require some body or bodily fluid contact, directly on your genitals to be transmitted. Also most of the micro organisms responsible do not live outside the human host, and are not airborne and so getting it off that water splash from the toilet or even entering the toilet is super-super-unlikely. Dear reader, don’t be deceived or deceive thyself, if you have gonorrhea or any other STI, it was not that public toilet you used’s fault. Do your research and try to remember who you bumped genitals with lately and I don’t mean while you were standing in a BRT bus.

Fact 3: Toilet disease is often used by all of us to disguise other infections, to make them sound more innocent, or less embarrassing.
Having spoken to many medical personnel, and from my own practice, I can conclude that what most Nigerians report as symptoms of “Toilet disease is actually one of two options (at times three options). They are either
1. A vaginal infection or
2. A Sexually Transmitted Infection
3. (or both? 😉

So you may  be wondering what is the difference between a vaginal infection and a sexually transmitted infection especially if both of them show up in the same location aka, the vagina.
I don’t think the naming system is that great myself, but the main difference is that you can be a honest-to God virgin with the thickest hymen on this here earth and still have a vaginal infection while a sexually transmitted infection usually comes with doing the do.  We can discuss STI’s another time but let me talk about the vaginal infections.

Vaginal Infections
The vagina, like your mouth, your skin, and your intestines, etc has it’s own natural bouquet of micro-organisms. Their duty is symbiotic; they live off you and in exchange, they keep bad, harmful micro-organisms away. the result is that your vagina has it’s own odor, the same way you have body odor etc and with regular hygiene you can keep things smelling fresh and clean. Some years back, some wicked people decided, that the same way we apply perfume on our body and deodorant to our armpit, we should insert something called a douche, squirt perfumy liquid inside the vagina and make that place smell like roses. The result of this unnecessary house cleaning is a bad case of vaginal infections. There are two very common types that occur:

1. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common form of vaginal infections accounting for 50% of cases. Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by a change or imbalance in the types of the bacteria normally found in the vagina and causes an overgrowth of bad organisms. Symptoms include: a strong fishy smell, especially after sex, vaginal discharge that is usually white or gray, and it can be thin. You may also have burning during urination or itching around the outside of the vagina, or both.

2. Genital Candidiasis-  is a Yeast (fungal) infection that accounts for the other 50% and is caused by an overgrowth of normally growing fungi in the vagina. The fungi are normally kept under control by naturally occurring bacteria in the body    . Thus if the natural balance is disrupted, this infection will occur. Symptoms include a thick, whitish-yellow type of vaginal discharge and may be itchy. The longer the infection lasts, you may have intense itching in your genital area, painful urination and painful sex.

While other factors like a weak immune system or excessive use of antibiotics can make you have vaginal imbalance, most of the time you may be the cause due to the habit of washing your vagina clean of the good micro organisms and altering the pH of your vagina in the process. Sometimes though, the overgrowth of the normal organisms in your vagina is simply because you are wearing too tight or non-absorbent underwear that keeps your vagina damp all the time and ripe for micro-organisms to grow. If you notice you get vaginal infections frequently, you should go to a hospital and have someone take a look down there and chart a solution for you.

Treatment Tips
One handy cream every woman should have to have in her personal medicine kit is clotrimazole cream. One swipe of this cream can usually stave off early symptoms of candidiasis, but it is useless against BV. In all instances, the best advice is to complain about your symptoms to a health professional and seek treatment promptly. Untreated vaginal infections and Sexually transmitted infections are all bad for your reproductive health. Usually the fishy smell of BV is motivation enough for any affected woman to seek treatment, but incase you still want to bury your head under the sand with embarrassment, you are not the first of the millions to have had either infection, and you will not be the last.

Share your experiences with me. Leave a comment below…
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  1. […] Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) – The vagina is normally colonized with healthy bacteria, but if something disturbs the system, then unhealthy bacteria like BV can take over. BV is most commonly caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria Gardnerella vaginalis. Symptoms include a thin grey, runny discharge and a strong fishy odour. The odor is more pungent when in contact with semen, so often women will first notice this as a strong odor after sex. BV is annoying and can increase your risk of other infections, but is easily treated with antibiotics. Learn more here […]

  2. […] “Toilet disease again!!!” Your thong may be the cause:  What many women call toilet disease is often times a vaginal infections that is not-sexually transmitted. Vaginal infections that are not STIs eg. Candidiasis & Bacterial Vaginosis are caused by imbalance or overgrowth of the bacteria/fungi that lives in the vagina. What many of us don’t know is that there are different friendly microorganisms that colonise different parts of our body e.g. skin, mouth, intestines and in exchange for living with you, they keep bad/harmful micro-organisms away. Unfortunately, sometimes your lack of or your excessive hygiene habits can cause an imbalance (read more about this in my article on toilet disease). […]

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