Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)
Print    Email
Bookmark and Share

Health Information

Health Information

Health Information

Health Information - Symptoms

Search Health Information    Female Genital Problems and Injuries

Female Genital Problems and Injuries

Topic Overview

Most women experience minor vaginal problems from time to time. These problems can be related to menstrual cycles, sex, infection, birth control methods, aging, medicines, or changes after pregnancy.

A change in your normal vaginal discharge may be the first sign of a vaginal problem. Changes in urination, such as having to urinate more frequently or having a burning feeling when you urinate, also may be a symptom of a vaginal problem.

Conditions that may cause a change in your normal vaginal discharge include:

Pelvic Pain

The exact cause of pelvic pain may be hard to find. The severity of your pain and other symptoms you have may help determine what is causing the pain. For example: A condition, such as functional ovarian cysts , may cause pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding when you are not having your period.

Vaginal infections

If you think you may have symptoms of an STI:

  • Do not have sexual contact or activity while waiting for your appointment. This will prevent the spread of the infection.
  • Women should not douche. Douching changes the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. Douching may flush an infection up into your uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) .

The presence or excess growth of yeast cells, bacteria, or viruses can cause a vaginal infection. A vaginal infection may occur when there is a change in the normal balance of organisms in your vagina.

The three most common types of vaginal infections are:

  • Candida vulvovaginitis (yeast infections).
  • Bacterial infections (bacterial vaginosis).
  • Parasitic infections (trichomoniasis).

Common symptoms of vaginal infection include:

  • Increase or change in the vaginal discharge, including gray, green, or yellow discharge.
  • Vaginal redness, swelling, itching, or pain.
  • Vaginal odor.
  • Burning with urination .
  • Pain or bleeding with sex.

If you are pregnant and have vaginal symptoms, talk with your doctor about your symptoms before considering any home treatment measures. Some home treatment measures may not be appropriate, depending on the cause of your vaginal infection. Conditions such as bacterial vaginosis can affect your pregnancy, so it is important to talk with your doctor and be treated appropriately.

Vaginal infections may increase the risk for pelvic infections, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Vaginal or vulvar problems

Other vaginal or vulvar problems may occur from the use of birth control methods, the use of medicines, or aging, or as a result of changes after pregnancy. These problems include:

  • Vaginal prolapse, which may cause urination and bowel changes.
  • Retained tampon, birth control device, or foreign object. See how to remove an object from the vagina.
  • Vulvar or vaginal injury, such as landing on a metal bar such as on a bike or playground equipment or from an object in the vagina.
  • Vulvar pain (vulvodynia).
  • Pudendal neuralgia, from pressure on the pudendal nerve in the genital area.
  • Noninfectious vaginitis. Examples of this include:

A young girl with unusual vaginal symptoms should be evaluated by her doctor to determine the cause. Vaginitis in a young girl may be caused by:

  • A ball of toilet paper in her vagina.
  • Pinworms that have spread from the anus to the vagina.
  • The spread of bacteria from an upper respiratory infection of the ears ( otitis media ) or throat ( tonsillitis ) to the vagina by her hands.

A young girl with vaginal symptoms must also be evaluated for possible sexual abuse.

Rashes, sores, blisters, or lumps in the vaginal or vulvar area

Many conditions can cause a rash, sore, blister, or lump in your vaginal area ( vulva ). One of the most common causes of a rash is genital skin irritation that may occur when soap is not rinsed off the skin or when tight-fitting or wet clothes rub against the skin. A sore, blister, or lump in your vaginal area may require a visit to your doctor.

Treatment of a vaginal problem depends on the cause of the problem, the severity of your symptoms, and your overall health condition.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Health Tools Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.


Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems. Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.
  Vaginal Yeast Infection: Should I Treat It Myself?

Check Your Symptoms

Do you have a problem in the genital area?
This includes things like vaginal itching or discharge, pelvic pain, and other problems in the pubic area.
Yes
Problem in genital area
No
Problem in genital area
How old are you?
11 years or younger
11 years or younger
12 to 55 years
12 to 55 years
56 years or older
56 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female
Are you pregnant?
Yes, you know that you're pregnant.
Pregnancy
No, you're not pregnant, or you're not sure if you're pregnant.
Pregnancy
Are you having any abnormal vaginal bleeding?
Bleeding is abnormal if it occurs at a time when you aren't expecting it or if it's a lot heavier or lighter than what you are used to.
Yes
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
No
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Have you had an injury in the genital area?
Yes
Injury in genital area
No
Injury in genital area
Do you have any urinary symptoms?
Yes
Urinary symptoms
No
Urinary symptoms
Do you have a deep cut or heavy bleeding in the genital area?
Yes
Deep cut or heavy bleeding in genital area
No
Deep cut or heavy bleeding in genital area
Do you have new pain in your lower belly, pelvis, or genital area that is different than your usual menstrual cramps?
Yes
Lower abdominal, pelvic, or genital pain
No
Lower abdominal, pelvic, or genital pain
How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
8 to 10: Severe pain
Severe pain
5 to 7: Moderate pain
Moderate pain
1 to 4: Mild pain
Mild pain
Do you think you may have a fever?
Yes
Possible fever
No
Possible fever
Do you have a rash that looks like a sunburn?
Yes
Sunburn-like rash
No
Sunburn-like rash
Do you think that the symptoms may have been caused by sexual abuse?
Yes
Possible sexual abuse
No
Possible sexual abuse
Yes
Symptoms of a vaginal infection
No
Symptoms of a vaginal infection
Do you have severe itching?
Yes
Severe itching
No
Severe itching
Do you have a rash or any sores, blisters, or lumps in your vaginal area?
Yes
Rash, sore, blister, or lump in your vaginal area
No
Rash, sore, blister, or lump in your vaginal area
Do you have new sores, blisters, or lumps in the vaginal area?
Yes
New sores, blisters, or lumps in vaginal area
No
New sores, blisters, or lumps in vaginal area
Do you have a rash in the vaginal area that looks like warts?
Yes
Wart-like rash in vaginal area
No
Wart-like rash in vaginal area
Do you feel anything bulging into your vagina or feel pelvic pressure when you move?
Yes
Bulging into vagina or increased pelvic pressure with movement
No
Bulging into vagina or increased pelvic pressure with movement
Is there an object in the vagina that you cannot remove?
Yes
Unable to remove an object from vagina
No
Unable to remove an object from vagina
Do you think that a medicine may be causing your vaginal problems?
Think about whether the problems started after you began taking a new medicine or a higher dose of a medicine.
Yes
Medicine may be causing symptoms
No
Medicine may be causing symptoms
Have you had symptoms for more than 1 week?
Yes
Vaginal symptoms for more than 1 week
No
Vaginal symptoms for more than 1 week
Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

Pain in children under 3 years

It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that the baby cannot sleep, cannot get comfortable, and cries constantly no matter what you do. The baby may kick, make fists, or grimace.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The baby is very fussy, clings to you a lot, and may have trouble sleeping but responds when you try to comfort him or her.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): The baby is a little fussy and clings to you a little but responds when you try to comfort him or her.

Pain in adults and older children

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days. Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's there.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.

Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause vaginal symptoms. A few examples are:

  • Antibiotics.
  • Birth control pills.
  • Hormone therapy.
  • Chemotherapy for cancer.
  • Vaginal sprays, douches, and spermicides.

Symptoms of a vaginal infection may include:

  • Vaginal itching.
  • Vaginal discharge that is not normal for you.
  • Red, irritated skin in the vaginal area.
  • Pain when you urinate.
  • Pain or bleeding when you have sex.

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

Urinary symptoms may include:

  • Pain when you urinate.
  • Trouble urinating.
  • Not being able to urinate at all.
  • Blood in your urine.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.
Pregnancy-Related Problems

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Home Treatment

A vaginal infection may clear up without treatment in 2 or 3 days.

  • If you could be pregnant, do a home pregnancy test. Any pregnant woman with abnormal vaginal symptoms should talk with her doctor about her symptoms before considering using any home treatment measures or nonprescription medicines. For more information, see the topic Pregnancy-Related Problems.
  • Avoid sex so that irritated vaginal tissues can heal.
  • Do not scratch the vaginal area. Relieve itching with a cold water compress or cool baths. Warm baths may also relieve pain and itching.
  • Make sure that the cause of your symptoms is not a forgotten tampon or other foreign object that needs to be removed.
  • Wear loose-fitting, cotton clothing. Stay away from nylon and synthetics, because they hold heat and moisture close to the skin, which makes it easier for an infection to start. You may want to remove pajama bottoms or underwear when you sleep.
  • Do not douche unless your doctor tells you to.
  • If you have gone through menopause , try using a vaginal lubricant, such as Astroglide, to reduce irritation caused by having sex.

Vaginal yeast infections

If you have symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection and have been diagnosed and treated by your doctor for this condition in the past, you may want to try Click here to view a Decision Point. treating it at home using a nonprescription medicine, such as tioconazole (for example, Vagistat), clotrimazole (for example, Gyne-Lotrimin), or miconazole (for example, Monistat) to treat your symptoms.

If your symptoms do not improve with home treatment, contact your doctor. Vaginal symptoms that may be related to another type of vaginal infection or a cervical infection need to be evaluated.

Women who take the blood-thinning medicine warfarin (Coumadin) and use a nonprescription vaginal yeast-fighting medicine, such as Monistat, may have increased bruising and abnormal bleeding. Consult with your doctor before using a yeast-fighting medicine if you take warfarin.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Symptoms of a vaginal infection develop.
  • Unexpected vaginal bleeding develops.
  • A fever develops.
  • You have moderate to severe pain .
  • Your symptoms become more severe or frequent.

Prevention

If you practice good genital hygiene, you can also help prevent infection:

  • Keep your vaginal area clean. Use mild, unscented soap and water. Rinse well.
  • After using the toilet, wipe from front to back to avoid spreading yeast or bacteria from your anus to the vagina or urinary tract.
  • Wear underwear that helps keep your genital area dry and doesn't hold in warmth and moisture. One good choice is cotton underwear.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing, such as panty hose and tight-fitting jeans. These may increase body heat and moisture in your genital area.
  • Change out of a wet swimsuit right away. Wearing a wet swimsuit for many hours may keep your genital area warm and moist.
  • Change pads or tampons often.
  • Don't douche or use deodorant tampons or feminine sprays, powders, or perfumes. These items can change the normal balance of organisms in your vagina.

Take antibiotics when needed, but avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics. Taking antibiotics exposes you to the risks of allergic reactions and antibiotic side effects (such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and yeast infections). Also, antibiotics may kill good bacteria.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What are your main symptoms?
  • How long have you had your symptoms?
  • Have you had this problem in the past? If so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated?
  • What does your vaginal discharge look and smell like?
  • What was the date of your last menstrual period? If you have been through menopause , how long ago was your last menstrual period?
  • Are you currently using any type of birth control method?
  • What medicines (especially antibiotics) are you taking or have you taken recently, if any?
  • Do you have any symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) ?
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
  • What nonprescription medicines have you tried? Did they help?
  • Do you have a new sex partner? Do you have more than one sex partner? Does your partner have any symptoms? Have you had sex without using a condom? Do you think you have recently been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) ?
  • Have you been diagnosed and treated for a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the past? If so, what was your diagnosis, and what treatment was done?
  • Do you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection , such as pain or burning on urination and a frequent urge to urinate?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as of June 4, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

© 2014 St. Mary's Health System   |  3700 Washington Avenue  |  Evansville, IN 47750  |  (812) 485-4000