Like the well-being of any other organ of the body, vag!na health is crucial to a woman’s overall well-being.
A healthy vag!na dispenses a healthy amount of discharge that sloughs off dead cells and unwanted bacteria, keeping the vag!na safe and infection-free. It also lubricates the vag!na and prevents dryness.
An unhealthy vag!na is more susceptible to vag!nal yeast infections like genital and vulvovag!nal candidiasis). Approximately 75 percent of all women are likely to contract a vag!nal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Any minor infections, if not treated timely, present the threat of exacerbating into complex health issues. Therefore, consulting your gynecologist at the first sign of a vag!na malfunction is crucial.
Here are 10 warning signs that indicate your vag!na is unhealthy.
1. Itching & Burning
A constant itching and burning sensation indicates the onset of a number of vag!nal infections. When the harmful bacteria outnumber the good bacteria in the vag!na , the imbalance manifests itself through the physical symptom of itching and burning.
A certain amount of yeast is essential to ward off harmful bacteria in the vag!na l area. However, an overproduction of yeast can result in a yeast infection, causing symptoms that include itching and burning.
Itching can also be a reaction to chemicals or ingredients in soaps, creams, contraceptive foams and prepackaged douching mixtures. These mixtures can alter the bacterial balance and acidity of the vag!na that protect it against infections.
2. Smelly Discharge
It’s unlikely for your vag!na to smell like a bed of roses, but if you notice a recurrent strong odor, one that even transfers to your undergarments, it might be a sign of an infection.
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A foul-smelling vag!nal discharge is often the first and most common symptom of infection.
A “fishy odor” is one of the major symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, according to a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health. This discharge may especially occur after interc0urse.
Pregnant women who contract bacterial vaginosis run a risk of delivering their baby prematurely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It also increases the risk of contracting s3xually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, and may sometimes lead to pelvic inflammatory disease.
Therefore, seek medical attention right away if you notice a vag!nal odor.
3. Discoloration & Excessive Discharge
Vag!na l discharge is the body’s natural mechanism to keep the vag!na lubricated and flush out harmful bacteria. Normal vag!nal discharge – clear or white and does not give off a bad odor.
A brown or red discharge that occurs right after a menstrual cycle is usually not a matter of concern. However, if you experience brown or red discharge on normal days between periods, seek medical attention as it could be indicative of cervical cancer. If it occurs during early pregnancy, it could signify a miscarriage.
A green or yellow, smelly and froth-like discharge is not normal and may be a sign of trichomoniasis, an STD.
A watery white, gray or yellow discharge might be a symptom of bacterial vaginosis. While the amount of discharge differs from woman to woman, recurrent and excessive discharge may also indicate bacterial vaginosis.
Seek medical attention right away if you notice a discoloration in your vag!nal discharge.
4. Abnormal Bleeding
If you experience bleeding between periods, it is a cause for alarm. A menstrual cycle that lasts abnormally long may also be a sign that there’s a problem.
If you have reached menopause (absence of menstruation for 12 months) but are still experiencing bleeding and spotting, consult your gynecologist immediately.
Post-menopausal bleeding is a crucial symptom and must be immediately diagnosed to prevent its transformation into a malignant disease, according to a 2013 study published in the International Journal of Reproduction, Contraception, Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Some women may also notice the passage of blood clots through the vag!na post-menopause – another warning sign of an unhealthy vag!na and related diseases, such as endometrial polyps (growths in the inner lining of the uterus) or endometrial or cervical cancer.
5. Bleeding During or After Interc0urse
While it is common for women who are new to s3xual interc0urse to experience bleeding, medical attention must be sought if it is a recurring issue in young women.
Bleeding during or after interc0urse in a woman of any age could indicate a vag!nal infection, a vag!nal tear (induced by childbirth), STDs like chlamydia or vag!nal dryness. The friction produced during interc0urse can irritate dry skin and cause spotting.
If you have gone through menopause and experience bleeding during or after interc0urse, it is a great cause for worry as it could indicate cervical cancer.
Therefore, any abnormal bleeding during or after interc0urse needs medical attention as it could have long-lasting and grave consequences.
6. Vag!nal Atrophy
Your vag!na becomes dry, thin and inflamed when your body produces less estrogen than required. This is called vag!nal atrophy. The most common symptom of vag!nal atrophy is painful interc0urse.
It is most likely to occur after menopause, since that is the time when the body’s estrogen production declines. It can also occur during breastfeeding.
Thinning of the vag!na due to vag!nal atrophy may lead to urinary tract infections. Seek medical attention if you experience painful interc0urse at any age.
7. Bumps or Blisters
If you notice a bump on your outer vag!na, it might be a symptom of vag!nal or vulvar cancer. Vag!nal cancer remains one of the least-discussed cancers among women today.
Although it is not as common as other cancers in women, a study published in 2000 in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine reported a significant increase in the number of young women contracting vulvar cancer since 1980.
A cancerous bump may begin as a mole but change color and texture to transform into a hard bump or lesion.
The bump can occur anywhere on the outer vag!na, although it is most commonly located near the clitoris. It is usually black or dark brown, but it can also be pink, red or white.
Sores and blisters might be symptoms of STDs, such as genital herpes.
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice a bump on your outer vag!na.
8. Painful Urination
While painful urination is most commonly associated with urinary tract infections, it can also be a major symptom of a vag!nal infection like a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
A vag!nal infection can occur due to the use of products like creams and soaps that contain certain harmful chemicals. It may also occur from using a chemical-based douche or leaving a tampon in too long. Vag!nal infections often cause the vag!na to become inflamed and hurt when urine passes through it.
Painful urination can also be a symptom of various STDs, including chlamydia and genital herpes.
Apart from being painful, the urination may also be inflammatory and the person may suffer constant vag!bal itching. If you experience pain while urinating, seek medical attention.