Solutions

15 weird vagina problems and how to deal with them

Here are some common symptoms, from strange bumps to funky discharge, and what they mean for your vaginal health.
 

PHOTOGRAPH: sharpshutter, 123rf.com

There are several problems that can occur with your va-jay-jay – from mysterious bumps to fishy discharge and unexplained pain. Check this list of symptoms to decide when you need to see a doctor. 

Our Expert: Dr Regina Zuzarte-Ng, obstetrician and gynaecologist at GynaeMD Women’s Clinic

 

When You’ve Got Weird Discharge
 

1. Itchiness and cottage cheese-looking discharge
Why it happens: This is most likely caused by a yeast or fungal infection, commonly known as thrush. 

What you can do about it: Over-the-counter or pharmacist-dispensed antifungal creams and vaginal pessaries can treat the problem. Taking probiotics can also help. 

When you should see a doctor: If the infection doesn’t go away despite treatment or if you keep getting these infections repeatedly.

 

2. Watery white, grey, or yellow discharge with a fishy smell
Why it happens: Most likely bacterial vaginosis (BV) – a vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of abnormal bacteria, which can be caused by anything that changes your natural pH balance (like douching, sex or antibiotics).

What you can do about it: Avoid scented soaps and bubble baths.

 

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When you should see a doctor: While BV can sometimes clear up on its own, always see a doctor and get treated with medication (oral or vaginal). This is especially important if you’re pregnant as it can trigger pre-term labour, or if you’ve recently undergone gynaecological surgery.

 

3. Frothy, yellow or greenish discharge with a foul smell
Why it happens: Could be trichomoniasis (a sexually transmitted infection by a parasite known as trichomonas vaginalis)

What you can do about it: Talk to your doctor, who will examine your vaginal discharge for evidence of the parasite and also screen for other sexually transmitted infections.

When you should see a doctor: Trichomoniasis is easily cured by antibiotics, which you and your sexual partner will need to take. You will also need to refrain from sex during treatment. 

 

4. Bleeding/spotting outside of your period  
Why it happens: There are many reasons why this can happen, including rough sex, hormonal imbalance; abnormal growths such as fibroids, endometrial polyps and ovarian cysts; ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage; infections of the vagina or cervix or cancer.

What you can do about it: Make a note of when it occurs. Spotting is totally normal if you’re on a low-dose birth control pill, but bleeding after sex could be a symptom of cervical cancer.

When you should see a doctor: Any persistent spotting should definitely be brought to your doctor’s attention. 

 

5. Cloudy or yellow discharge
Why it happens: This could either be an infection but it can also be physiological (of normal occurrence), as the vaginal/cervical mucus changes consistency during the menstrual cycle.

What you can do about it: Monitor the discharge throughout an entire menstrual cycle.
 

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When you should see a doctor: If the discharge is foul-smelling, and accompanied by pelvic / abdominal pain or itchiness.

 

When You Notice A Bump
 

6. Bumps, lumps or blisters on your vagina
Why it happens: A bump can be a sebaceous cyst, which is a collection of sebum (like a pimple).  It could also be a bacterial infection like genital warts. Blisters are usually caused by infections such as genital herpes or syphilis.

What you can do about it: Keep the genital area clean and dry. If an ingrown hair is the culprit, applying a warm compress should do the trick. 

When you should see a doctor: As soon as you notice it, get tested, get treated and take precautions so that you don’t pass anything to your partner. 

 

When You’re Dry Down There

 

7. Dry vagina
Why it happens: Hormonal changes that occur during childbirth, breastfeeding or menopause. Overzealous douching can also cause dryness.  Women sometimes complain of vaginal dryness during sex, usually due to inadequate foreplay and natural lubrication.

What you can do about it: Avoid douching, and use a good lubricant for sex.  

 

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When you should see a doctor: If you suspect the dryness may be caused by hormonal changes.

 

When You’re Itchy

 

8. Extreme itchiness, burning or irritation (with no discharge)
Why it happens: It could be caused by a number of things such as an infection, menopausal changes, eczema or simply a reaction to an irritant such as strong scented soap.

What you can do about it: Have your doctor check what it is. 

When you should see a doctor: Any persistent itching, burning, redness or irritation is best shown to your doctor. 

 

9. A spot that’s always itchy and irritated 
Why it happens: It could be caused by an infection or eczema. In rare cases, it could be vulva cancer.

What you can do about it: Talk to your doctor.

When you should see a doctor: If you notice a spot on your vulva that’s constantly itchy or irritated, or it looks different than normal.

 

When It Hurts 

10. Deep, internal vaginal pain 
Why it happens: Anything from endometriosis (a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your womb grows outside your womb and can cause ovarian cysts or pelvic adhesions (internal scars); pelvic inflammatory disease (infection of the female reproductive organs); uterine fibroids; irritable bowel syndrome (chronic condition of the large intestine that causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation); scars from previous abdominal/pelvic surgery or chemotherapy/radiation and emotional stress.

 

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What you can do about it: Schedule a pelvic exam or ultrasound to find out the cause. 

When you should see a doctor: If you have persistent vaginal pain for more than a day or two, especially if it is accompanied by discharge or fever.

 

When It’s Painful to Pee or Have Sex

 

11. Painful and frequent urination 
Why it happens: Urinary tract infection or kidney stones; menopausal changes; interstitial cystitis (a chronic condition where the bladder is inflamed).

What you can do about it: Stay well hydrated to flush out germs in the urine. Drinking cranberry juice helps prevent frequent urine infections. Wipe from front to back after urinating and after bowel movements, and also urinate after sex so that germs don’t get pushed up the urinary tract.  

When you should see a doctor: If the problem persists despite the above measures, or if it occurs repeatedly. Also see a doctor if blood is present in the urine or if the painful urination is accompanied by fever or a backache, which may signal a kidney infection rather than just a bladder infection.

 

12. Pelvic pain with discharge and/or fever
Why it happens: Pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the female reproductive organs.

What you can do about it: See your doctor urgently. You will most likely need a course of antibiotics; severe cases may even require surgery to drain the pus inside the pelvis.

When you should see a doctor: If you have persistent pain accompanied with fever.

 

13. Having sex is always very painful; so is using tampons
Why it happens: If you find sex painful and it isn’t because of inexperience, anxiety or a lubrication issue, it might be due to endometriosis, infection or pelvic inflammatory disease.

What you can do about it: First, try extended foreplay or different positions to see if that alleviates the pain. If not, consult your doctor for a diagnosis. If it turns out that it is none of the above conditions, it might be vaginismus, a rare but painful condition where the vaginal muscles get so tight they basically close off the opening of the vagina.

 

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When you should see a doctor: If the pain is persistent and if there is any bleeding. 

 

14. Having sex is suddenly painful, and you used to enjoy it!
Why it happens: If this is a sudden pain, it might be caused by endometriosis, infection, or abnormal growths such as fibroids or ovarian cysts.

What you can do about it: Sex shouldn’t hurt – quite the contrary. Try to be as exact as possible in describing your discomfort so that your doctor can help you with the right diagnosis and treatment.

When you should see a doctor: If the pain is persistent and if there is any bleeding. 

 

When You’re Numb Down Below

 

15. Your vagina feels numb
Why it happens: This could be caused by menopause; hormonal changes or frequent bike riding.  

What you can do about it: If you feel it’s bike related, invest in a padded seat and/or padded shorts.

When you should see a doctor: If you suspect menopause or hormonal changes.

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