A study of the female reproductive system will necessarily take us to the different organs that make up the system. Besides the ovaries, which produce and release egg cells (ova), the other organs in the female reproductive system include the Fallopian tubes or oviducts (the tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus, and where conception takes place), the uterus (where the fetus develops during gestation), the birth canal or vagina (the tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the female body), and the vulva (the external genitals).
As in the other body organs, certain conditions can develop in some of the female reproductive organs mentioned. One such condition is called toxic shock syndrome (TSS), an acute disease associated with the presence of any of the variety of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium (aka, golden staph).
Various kinds of bacteria are normally present in the vagina without causing any problems. Sometimes, however, these bacteria grow out of control and cause various infections, as in the case of the golden staph, which grows in the vagina and produces toxins. The toxins are absorbed into the blood stream causing severe blood poisoning (toxemia).
Symptoms the woman with toxic shock syndrome may experience include fever, headache, skin rash, vomiting, and diarrhea. In the severest of cases, the TSS sufferer’s blood pressure may drop dramatically, causing her to go into a potentially fatal condition called shock. Damage to the other body organs, such as the kidneys, lungs and heart, likewise characterizes toxic shock syndrome.
Doubts still exist as to the exact mechanism that triggers the sudden growth of the golden staph. One evidence points to the use of super-absorbent tampons; the chemical composition of the fibers in such materials are said to create an environment that favors the growth of bacteria.
Many cases of toxic shock syndrome were reported in women who were using super-absorbent tampons during their period. As a matter of fact, the recognition of TSS was brought about by the introduction of super-absorbent tampons that encouraged many women to use them for longer periods. But toxic shock syndrome may also occur in non-menstruating women, following other severe infections or certain surgical procedures.
Severe cases of TSS can result in permanent damage. The risk of the condition occurring with menstruation can be minimized by following certain professional advices related to the use of tampons. For example, the use of tampons with low-absorbent capacity is encouraged. Change as often as needed; do not leave a tampon in for more than eight hours. Pads may be used for part of the time, preferably at night. Those who already had TSS should consult their doctor first before using tampons again. The use of tampons immediately after pregnancy is discouraged.
1. Toxic Shock Syndrome Information Service – http://www.toxicshock.com/
2. DermNet NZ, “Toxic shock syndrome” – http://dermnetnz.org/bacterial/toxic-shock-syndrome.html
3. MayoClinic.com, “Toxic shock syndrome” – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/toxic-shock-syndrome/DS00221
4. Wikipedia, “Female reproductive system (human)” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_reproductive_system_(human)