Having a vagina can be awesome! But it can also be a pain in the...well...vagina. From discharge, to menstruation, to pregnancy and menopause, our bodies go through a LOT -even when things are good. But it can get a whole lot worse when things go bad. So when there is a change or any sign of something amiss, we often assume it's one of the more common vaginal issues that everyone has heard of, like yeast infections.
Long story short, it might be something else.
Below are some common ailments that can plague you and your vagina that you’ve probably never heard of.
Common Vaginal Issues 1: Cyclic Vulvovaginitis
This is a fun one. Picture this. You’re about to get your period and you start burning and itching and assume your vaginal issue is a yeast infection.
You treat for said yeast infection, you have your period (a double whammy of good times this month) and everything goes back to normal.
Fast forward to your next cycle when you know your period is coming but lo and behold, the burning and intense itching begin anew. Another yeast infection?!
Rinse, wash, repeat. But what if its not as simple as that?
Enter Cyclic Vulvovaginitis
This vaginal infection can be chronic and flare up before or during your period, with next to no other symptoms in between your periods.
Someone dealing with Cyclic Vulvovaginitis may experience symptoms like:
- burning, stinging, or itching (inside and around your vagina) just before a period
- worsening symptoms after sex
- foul-smelling discharge
Who is affected?
So this can affect anyone. It doesn't discriminate by age or race (somewhat refreshing these day, if I’m honest).
One of the most common causes of Cyclic Vaginitis is bacteria.
This doesn't mean you're unclean or have poor hygiene (though poor hygiene can contribute to this).
Put simply, your vagina has good bacteria and bad bacteria living symbiotically together, kind of like your children. However, every now and then the balance of your vaginal flora is disrupted and the result can be an upset in this precarious balance.
Similar to when one of your children knocks over the epic tower of blocks the other was building and now there is no peace.
Bacteria is the leading cause of vaginitis but it can also be caused by yeast, infections, or environmental factors like detergents and underwear material. I can attest to the fact that simple, boring cotton underwear can help.
Also, pro tip! Ditching disposable pads and tampons for reusable pads was truly a game-changer.
While some companies flaunt the many ways in which reusable pads can perform miracles (such as reduce period cramps) until there is sound research on it, I can’t share that with any certainty.
What I can say with certainty however, is that since switching to cloth pads I no longer have any adverse reaction during my period. The itching and diaper rash feeling that once plagued me monthly is nonexistent now. For that alone, I’m a believer.
Lil Helper has a great assortment of re-usable cloth pads. Check out their Hypatia cloth pads here.
Talk to your doc about your symptoms to get a proper diagnosis (like all vaginal issues) as the treatment you might need can vary, depending on the cause.
Common Vaginal Issues 2: Noninfectious Vaginitis
Non-infectious vaginitis usually refers to vaginal irritation without an infection being present.
Most often, noninfectious vaginitis is caused by an allergic reaction to, or irritation from, vaginal sprays, douches, or spermicidal products (like spermicide-covered condoms). Also really tight, non-breathable clothes can lead to this.
Like I needed another reason to love my sweats!
Are you sensitive to perfumed soaps, detergents, or fabric softeners? If you are, noninfectious vaginitis can develop more frequently.
Symptoms include burning, itching, or vaginal pain (especially during intercourse). If you experience symptoms like this always talk to your doc as these symptoms can be caused by other ailments (like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis)
Common Vaginal Issues 3: Vulvodynia
Is the term for chronic vaginal pain with no known cause.
Vulvodynia is a persistent pain of the vulva.
In case you slept through this part of health class (cuz, same), the vulva is the area around the opening of the vagina. It includes the opening of the vagina, the pubic mound, the inner and outer labia (vaginal lips), and the clitoris.
Clinically speaking, this pain persists for at least 3 months with seemingly no cause. This sounds awful (because it is) and affects approx 16% of the female population or an estimated
200,000 to 6 million people.
Signs and symptoms of Vulvodynia
As no two people are exactly alike, nor are vaginas, so vulva pain can feel different to different people.
Signs and symptoms of of Vulvodynia (like many vaginal issues) may include:
- Burning or stinging pain
- Stabbing or throbbing pain
- Intense itching
- Soreness or rawness (like a rough chafing feeling)
- Painful vaginal intercourse
- Painful tampon insertion
The two main type of vulvodynia are:
Generalized vulvodynia is pain in different areas of the vulva at different times. Vulvar pain may be constant or happen every once in a while. Touch or pressure may or may not cause it. But it may make the pain worse.
Localized vulvodyniais pain in one area of the vulva. Often a burning sensation, this type of vulvar pain usually results from touch or pressure, like sex or prolonged sitting.
You can find even more information on all of this here.
There isn’t much information available on why this condition exists. Some researchers think it might be genetic where some sufferers are more predisposed to it. Others think it might be caused by chronic inflammation or damage to nerve endings.
Whatever the cause, your doc will be able to help diagnose this and other vaginal issues. The treatments vary including creams, numbing ointments, and oral medication.
So in short there are common symptoms that can be caused by different vaginal issues. If you have any of these symptoms make sure you check with your doctor so you can get a proper diagnosis and get the treatment necessary.
The more we open up a dialogue to discuss these things, the more commonplace vaginal health will be. No one deserves to suffer in silence and you and your whoo-ha are worthy of the best care.
About the Author
Heather is a STAHWM who lives in St. John’s NL. where she’s raising two humans, two dogs, a cat and a fish. In between chasing her hooligans and waiting for her Hogwarts letter, she enjoys knitting, crocheting and campy 80’s horror flicks.