Pain in the vagina or the female external genital organs (the vulva, which includes the labia, clitoris, and entrance to the vagina) most commonly is a result of infection. Vaginitis is another term for infection of the vagina. Yeast infection (Candida) is a particularly common form of vaginitis. Women are at increased risk for yeast vaginitis if they take antibiotics or cortisone medications, during pregnancy, and if their immune systems are suppressed by medications or disease. Vaginal pain can also be a result of injury or trauma to the vagina or vulva. Vaginal pain during sexual intercourse is referred to as dyspareunia. The medical term for vaginal pain is vulvodynia.
Depending on the cause of vaginal pain, it may be associated with
Other causes of vaginal pain
- Bartholin's Abscesses
- Trauma Injury
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Causes of Vaginal Pain
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
Bacterial vaginosis is an abnormal vaginal condition with signs and symptoms of vaginal discharge, vaginal odor, and vaginal pain. Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. Although it may cause some disturbing symptoms (discharge and odor), it is not dangerous and cannot be passed by sex. Diagnosis becomes important to exclude serious infections like gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Many treatment options are available such as oral antibiotics and vaginal gels.
Chlamydia in Women
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia, a bacterial infection, include vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, burning with urination, blood in the urine, and feelings of urinary urgency and frequency. Untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. Chlamydia is diagnosed with a culture or by identification of the genetic material of the bacteria. Treatment of chlamydia consists of a course of antibiotics.
Genital Herpes in Women (Symptoms, Signs, Treatment)
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Symptoms of genital herpes include painful blisters and often fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes for first time infection. Genital herpes is diagnosed with lab tests to test for the presence of the virus. Treatment for genital herpes includes antiviral medications to shorten the duration of the outbreak or reduce the risk of future outbreaks. There is no cure for genital herpes. Condoms may help prevent the spread of genital herpes.
Genital Warts (HPV) Infection in Women
Genital warts is a sexually transmitted infection (STI, STD) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the most common STD in the US. The warts can appear anywhere on the skin where sexual contact has occurred. The warts look like raised, flesh-colored lumps or bumps that have a cauliflower-like appearance. Signs and symptoms of genital warts in women include vaginal, vulva, or groin pain, itching, and burning where the wart(s) is. Treatment can remove warts or lesions, but it does not prevent spread of the virus, and the warts usually grow back. Removing genital warts does not prevent the infection from spreading elsewhere on the body. There is no cure for genital warts, and there is no vaccine to prevent them; however, there is a vaccine to prevent infection from four common types of HPV. Gardasil vaccine available for female adolescents and teens to prevent HPV infection and cervical cancer.
Is a Yeast Infection Contagious?
Yeast are a fungi that has many types. A type of yeast that can cause infection in humans is called Candida. Candida can infect the mouth, vagina, penis, or other areas of the body. Symptoms of yeast infections depend on the area infected, however, may include itching, bumps on the skin, a reddish rash, or patches of skin that ooze a clear or yellow liquid. Most yeast infections are not contagious even though they are caused by a fungus.
Lichen planus is a common skin disease that features small, itchy pink or purple spots on the arms or legs. The abnormal areas on the skin in lichen planus are typically flat-topped (hence the term planus), itchy, and frequently have a polygonal or angular shape.
Menopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods permanently stop, also called the "change of life." Menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, irregular vaginal bleeding, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, weight gain, and emotional symptoms such as mood swings. Treatment of menopausal symptoms varies, and should be discussed with your physician.
Perimenopause is the time in a woman's life when she is approaching menopause. During this time a woman starts to develop symptoms of declining estrogen levels that may include mood swings, painful sex, night sweats, hot flashes, and weight gain. Every adult woman eventually will experience perimenopause.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Pregnancy (STDs)
When you are pregnant, many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be especially harmful to you and your baby. These STDs include herpes, HIV/AIDS, genital warts (HPV), hepatitis B, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. Symptoms include bumps, sores, warts, swelling, itching, or redness in the genital region. Treatment of STDs while pregnant depends on how far along you are in the pregnancy and the progression of the infection.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs)
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States. STDs can be spread through any type of sexual activity involving the sex organs, the anus or mouth, or through contact with blood during sexual activity. Examples of STDs include, chancroid, chlamydia, gonorrhea, granuloma inguinale, lymphogranuloma venereum, syphilis, genital herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis, pubic lice (crabs), and scabies. Treatment is generally with antibiotics; however, some STDs that go untreated can lead to death.
Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease involving the abnormal production of extra antibodies that attack the glands and connective tissue. Sjögren's syndrome with gland inflammation (resulting dry eyes and mouth, etc.) that is not associated with another connective tissue disease is referred to as primary Sjögren's syndrome. Sjögren's syndrome that is also associated with a connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or scleroderma, is referred to as secondary Sjögren's syndrome. Though there is no cure for Sjögren's syndrome, the symptoms may be treated by using lubricating eye ointments, drinking plenty of water, humidifying the air, and using glycerin swabs. Medications are also available to treat dry eye and dry mouth.
Urinary Tract Infections in Children
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in children. Symptoms and signs include fever and abdominal pain. Associated symptoms and signs include flank pain, vomiting, and blood in the urine. Treatment for a UTI involves antibiotic therapy.
Vaginal cancer is fairly uncommon. There are two types of vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Risk factors include being 60 or older, exposure to DES while in the womb, HPV infection, and having a history of abnormal cervical cells. Painful intercourse, pelvic pain, vaginal lumps, and abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge are all symptoms of vaginal cancer. Treatment depends upon the stage of the vaginal cancer and may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and the use of radiosensitizers.
Vaginal Yeast Infection (in Women and Men)
Vaginal yeast infections in women are caused by an organism called Candida albicans. Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include vaginal pain with urination, vaginal discharge, odor, and itching. Treatment is generally OTC medications. A man can contract a yeast infection from his female sexual partner. Symptoms of a yeast infection in men include penile itching. Treatment is with oral or topical medication.
Vaginitis (Inflammation of the Vagina)
Vaginitis refers to inflammation of the vagina. Vaginitis can be caused by infections, menopause, or poor hygiene. Symptoms of vaginitis include vaginal itching, discharge, odor, pain, or discomfort. Treatment for vaginitis depends on the cause. Antibiotics may be necessary for some forms of vaginitis.
Yeast Infection vs. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV) both cause vaginal discharge. Yeast infection discharge is thick, white, and had a cottage cheese consistency. BV discharge is whitish-gray and is thinner. Vaginal odor, irritation, and pain may also be present. Treatment of yeast infections includes over-the-counter and prescription antifungals. BV treatment involves antibiotics.
Examples of Medications for Vaginal Pain
- conjugated equine estrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate, Prempro, Premphase
- esterified estrogens (Menest)
- esterified estrogens and methyltestosterone, Estratest, Estratest HS
- estradiol, Alora, Climara, Delestrogen, Depo-Estradiol, Divigel, Elestrin, Estrace, and Others
- estrogens conjugated (Premarin)
- estrogens conjugated synthetic (Cenestin)
- estropipate, Ogen
- flibanserin (Addyi)
- Metrogel (metronidazole) Side Effects, Warnings, and Interactions
- OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
- Side Effects of Terazol (terconazole)
- Solosec (secnidazole)
- terconazole (Terazol, Zazole)
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