Though we’re warned about the danger of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, we don’t often hear about the vaginal conditions that aren’t directly related to sex. How can we protect ourselves from these? What are their symptoms? Why do they occur? Most importantly: What even are they? Let’s find out…
1. Yeast Infection
About: This type of vaginal infection occurs when there’s an imbalance in the vagina that causes too many yeast cells to grow. Symptoms can include itching; discharge that is white, clumpy, and thick; irritated skin around the labia; and pain during urination and intercourse.
How to treat: Yeast infections can be treated with anti-fungal medication, which you can request from your doctor or buy at the drugstore. This type of treatment comes in ointments, creams, tablets, and suppositories (which are inserted into the vagina).
2. Bacterial Vaginosis
About: Bacterial vaginosis (or BV) occurs when there is a vaginal imbalance because an unusual/potentially harmful bacteria has grown in number. Interestingly enough, many women do not experience symptoms. But, if they do, this is what they notice: itching, odor, pain, burning, and white or grey discharge.
How to treat: Using antibiotics that are prescribed by a doctor (not over-the-counter), BV can be treated. It’s also important to note that BV can spread to female partners, so make sure you have your partner get checked out if they’re female.
About: This condition refers to the inflammation of the cervix, which is the lower end of the uterus that opens into the vagina. It can result from noninfectious causes or from STIs such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. It is known for causing discharge that’s brown, green, yellow, or pus-like; odor; painful urination and intercourse; and vaginal bleeding that has nothing to do with menstruation.
How to treat: Treatment depends on how severe the inflammation is. If it’s caused by an STI, one may need to take medication or antibiotics. If an allergic reaction or irritation is involved, it’s important for one to remove the source of the problem. If someone is dealing with chronic cervicitis, they made need to have abnormal cells removed using cryosurgery, laser surgery, or cautery.
4. Pudendal neuralgia
About: This chronic, unpleasant condition can occur in both men and women (though women tend to deal with it more than men). It involves genital pain; immense discomfort; urinary problems; bowel issues; and sexual dysfunction. The latter happens because the pudendal nerve is what allows for one to experience sexual pleasure.
How to treat: In this case, treatment depends. It can require physical therapy, botox (to relax muscles), and even pudendal nerve blocks (injections that help to reduce the inflammation of this nerve). However, there are many other options.
5. Vaginal Prolapse
About: Vaginal prolapse transpires when the vagina expands to bother other parts of the body. This can cause the uterus to prolapse as well, meaning that it falls out of the vagina. Though many women don’t experience symptoms, they may feel a full or uncomfortable sensation in the vagina. It can also bring about a lower backache. It’s commonly be caused by childbirth, menopause, and even consistent constipation.
How to treat: It may be recommended that one perform to pelvic exercises (like Kegels) to strengthen their pelvic muscles. There are also surgical options, which can be used to repair the area of the vagina that has prolapsed.
6. Vaginal Atrophy
About: When the tissues in a woman’s vagina no longer work as they normally do, vaginal atrophy might be the source. It can occur because of menopause or due to a decrease in estrogen. As for symptoms, it’s characterized by vaginal dryness, burning, itchiness, pain during sex, discharge, and spotting or bleeding.
How to treat: Moisturizing lotions and oils (for dryness and lubrication), dilators (which widen the vagina), and hormone therapy (helps to bring balance to the vagina) can all be used as treatment options.
About: Vaginismus is defined as the contraction of muscles around the vagina. Sex, inserting a tampon, or a Pap smear can all produce this reaction. Symptoms include: pain, burning, or tightness during sex; difficult inserting tampons; issues during a visit to the OB/GYN; and spasms in other body parts.
How to treat: Usually, vaginismus is treated with Kegel exercises that relax the floor of the pelvis. Dilators may also be used to make women feel comfortable placing a safe device in the vagina (this is especially because this condition can cause one to be anxious about such as thing).
While it’s important to remain educated about our beautiful bodies and all that goes on within them, it’s just as important to ask for help when you need it. If you have a concern – vaginal or otherwise – make sure to seek medical advice.