There is a set of gynecological problems that aren’t sexually transmitted infections, but easily mistaken for them because of similar signs and symptoms. Naturally, this can be confusing or even distressing: What is going on down here? Is this normal? How do I get rid of this?
These conditions can be uncomfortable, sometimes painful, or even disruptive to a person’s life. But that’s just not going to work—you are important, and you don’t have time for a physical problem to occupy your emotional or sexual wellbeing.
The good news is that most of these vaginal problems are totally treatable. An early diagnosis is crucial, though. Left untreated, these conditions can become larger health problems.
To recognize a vaginal problem and know how to treat it, you need information. You’ve come to the right place. Here are examples and information about some super common gynecological problems that aren’t sexually transmitted infections.
Symptoms: itching, discharge that is white, clumpy, and thick; irritated skin around the labia; and pain during urination and intercourse
What to know: Yeast infections occur when there is an imbalance in the vagina that causes too many yeast cells to grow.
How to treat: Anti-fungal medication, which you can request from your doctor or buy at the drugstore, restores the balance of yeast cells in the vagina. The medication comes in ointments, creams, tablets, and suppositories (inserted into the vagina).
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Symptoms: itching, odor, pain, burning, and white or grey discharge, but many women do not have symptoms.
What to know: Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by a high amount of harmful bacteria in the vagina. BV can spread between females so if you have a female partner, let her know.
How to treat: Antibiotics prescribed by your doctor cures BV. It cannot be sold over the counter so you will need a doctor’s appointment.
Symptoms: brown, green, yellow, or pus-like discharge, odor, pain during urination and sex, and vaginal bleeding while not on your period
What to know: Cervicitis is inflammation of the cervix, which is the gateway from the vagina to the uterus. It can result from an allergic reaction, abnormal cervical cells, or a sexually transmitted infection like gonorrhea or chlamydia. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to get tested for STIs if you haven’t already.
How to treat: Treatment varies based on the cause of cervicitis. Generally, it is treated with medication or antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
Symptoms: genital pain, severe discomfort, urinary and bowel issues, and difficulty having sexual pleasure
What to know: Pudendal neuralgia is a very unpleasant condition that occurs in both genders, but more often female-bodied people. It’s typically caused by some sort of repeated injury (sitting on a bike for long periods of time for several years), trauma to the pelvic area, or damage to the nerve from another surgery.
How to treat: Treatment depends on the cause. Some treatments include physical therapy and botox. Others include injections to reduce inflammation of the pudendal nerve. Your doctor will help determine the best therapy.
Symptoms: full or uncomfortable sensation in the vagina and lower back pain
What to know: Vaginal prolapse occurs when the vagina stretches or expands to push on other organs in the body. It typically happens from childbirth, menopause, or regular constipation.
How to treat: Pelvic exercises (Kegels) can help strengthen the muscles. There are also minimally invasive surgical options.
Symptoms: vaginal dryness, burning, itchiness, pain during sex, discharge, and spotting or bleeding
What to know: Vaginal atrophy is when the tissues in the vagina no longer function normally. Most of the time it occurs because of menopause or a change in estrogen levels.
How to treat: Moisturizers can be used to treat dryness. To help restore the tissue, your doctor might prescribe Dilators that widen the vagina and/or hormone therapy.
Symptoms: pain, burning, or tightness during sex, difficulty inserting tampons, problems during OB/GYN visits, and body spasms
What to know: Vaginismus is characterized by the contraction of muscles around the vagina, which can cause discomfort and anxiety in many situations.
How to treat: Pelvic exercises (Kegels) help relax the pelvis. Dilators can also be used to make it easier to insert a tampon.
Last note: This is not a complete list of gynecological problems that aren’t STIs, and while it’s important to be educated about signs and symptoms, you are the best judge of what’s normal for your body. If something doesn’t feel right, never hesitate to ask your doctor. You shouldn’t have to tolerate bothersome symptoms. Gynecological problems that aren’t sexually transmitted infections are important to treat.