Symptoms that warrant review are:
- Irritation, burning, itching, chafing, or other discomfort.
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Any vaginal bleeding that is not a period such as bleeding with sexual intercourse
- Vaginal pain on urination
- Abnormal vaginal discharge, especially if it is offensive smelling or coloured.
- Vaginal sores or lesions
- Lumps and bumps
There are many vulval and vaginal conditions that cause women a lot of angst such as thrush, bacterial vaginosis, vaginal dryness and many more. Embarrassment commonly prevents women from seeking help. This is an area of the body that should not be ignored and the female specialist GPs at The Bubble are very comfortable discussing these issues.
A consultation will usually involve history taking, a vulval and internal vaginal examination as well as swabs and urine tests being taken.
Vaginal thrush, also known as vaginal candidiasis, is a common condition caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Candida in the vagina. While it's a prevalent issue affecting many women, understanding its symptoms, causes, and effective management is crucial for maintaining vaginal health.
- Itching and soreness in the vaginal area
- Redness and swelling
- Unpleasant odour
- Abnormal vaginal discharge – often thick, white, and resembling cottage cheese
- Discomfort or pain during urination or intercourse
Vaginal thrush is often triggered by factors that disturb the delicate balance of the vaginal environment. Common causes include:
- Antibiotic use, which can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina
- Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy or menopause
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Weakened immune system
- Tight or synthetic clothing that may trap moisture
- Use of scented products in the genital area
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection resulting from an imbalance in the bacteria naturally present in the vagina. While not typically serious, understanding its symptoms, causes, and seeking timely medical advice is crucial for effective management.
- Thin, grayish-white vaginal discharge with a distinctive fishy odour
- Itching or irritation in the vaginal area
- Burning sensation during urination
BV occurs when there's an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, upsetting the natural balance with beneficial bacteria in the vagina. Common causes include:
- Multiple or new sexual partners
- Douching or using strong feminine hygiene products
- Use of intrauterine devices (IUDs) for contraception
- Hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy
While not as common as thrush or BV, this condition is often mistaken as thrush or BV. Undiagnosed and untreated, lichen sclerosus can cause change in architecture of the vulva and there is a small risk of developing vulval cancer.
Lichen Sclerosus is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that can affect various parts of the body, with the vulva being a common site. The exact cause of Lichen Sclerosus is not well understood, but it is believed to involve an abnormal immune response. Other factors may include genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, and autoimmune conditions.
Lichen Sclerosus of the vulva may present with the following symptoms:
- Itching, which can be intense
- White, patchy skin that appears thin and crinkled
- Discomfort or pain, particularly during intercourse or urination
- Bruised or blistered appearance
How can you minimise irritation to the vagina and vulva?
- Wear underwear made of natural fibres such as cotton and change underwear daily. Consider going without underwear when possible e.g., going to bed.
- Avoid, or at least limit, time spent wearing tight-fitting underwear, pantyhose/tights, jeans or trousers as this may lead to sweating. Also limit time in a damp or wet bathers or active wear.
- Avoid use of feminine hygiene sprays and douching. Avoid pads, tampons and toilet paper which are scented.
- Avoid shaving or waxing the genital area, particularly if irritation is present.
- Gently wash skin of the genital area only with plain water. Or, use soap alternatives such as Cetaphil®, QV wash®, or Dermaveen® and avoid soap, liquid soap, bubble bath and shower gels. Always pat dry (don't rub).
- Wash clothing with non-perfumed or low-allergenic washing products. Avoid use of fabric softeners. Consider second-rinsing if symptoms persist.
- You can continue to be sexually active and in fact it may improve your symptoms. Sexual activities, whether with a partner or masturbation, improve blood flow and help maintain healthy tissue. Consider using a vaginal lubricant.
- Practice safe sex in new relationships, in order to reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases atrophy by decreasing blood flow to the genital area and directly affecting vaginal cells, as well as threatening your overall health