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
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:
- Infections of the vagina, such as a
human papillomavirus (HPV), or
- Infection of the cervix (cervicitis).
- An object in the vagina,
such as a forgotten tampon.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs),
- Various sex practices, such
as oral-to-vaginal and anal-to-vaginal contact.
- Vaginal medicines
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.
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
- 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
- Candida vulvovaginitis
- Bacterial infections (bacterial
- 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
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.
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
- 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.
vaginitis. Examples of this include:
- An allergic reaction or irritation from
chemicals, such as those found in vaginal sprays, douches, or
- Hormone changes related to
menopause, such as
- Use of
antibiotics and other medicines, which may change the
balance of organisms in your vagina.
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
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
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
Treatment of a vaginal problem depends on the cause of
the problem, the severity of your symptoms, and your overall health
Check your symptoms to decide if and
when you should see a doctor.
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.
- Vaginal Yeast Infection: Should I Treat It Myself?
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
- 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
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.
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.
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
- Symptoms of
a vaginal infection
- Unexpected vaginal bleeding develops.
- A fever
- You have moderate to severe
- Your symptoms become more severe or
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.
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
- 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
- What does your vaginal discharge look and smell
- What was the date of your last menstrual period? If you have
menopause, how long ago was your last menstrual
- Are you currently using any type of birth control
- What medicines (especially antibiotics) are you taking or
have you taken recently, if any?
- Do you have any symptoms of
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
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
Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older