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Genital Problems in Women

Vaginal irritation and discharge are common problems for many women. Follow this chart for help in understanding and self-treating many of these problems.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Do you have a vaginal discharge that is normal in color, consistency, and smell, but has the amount increased?

  • Do you have a discharge that is white and curd-like (cottage-cheese like), or are you experiencing vaginal or labial (lips of the vagina) redness, itching, and/or irritation?

  • Do you have a greenish, yellow discharge with an unpleasant fishy odor?

  • Are you experiencing abdominal pain or other pain during sex?

  • Do you have a tender swelling of the vaginal opening or swelling of one labia (vaginal lip)?

  • Do you have a sore (ulcer) or raw area on the outside or inside of the vagina?

  • Do you have pain with intercourse?

  • Does your vagina seem dry, or are you experiencing vaginal itching and irritation?

  • Are you anxious about having sex?

  • Do you have pain or burning with urination? Do you feel like you suddenly have to urinate and can’t make it to the toilet in time? Do you feel that you are having trouble starting your stream of urine? Do you feel that you are not completely emptying your bladder when you urinate?

  • Do you leak urine when you cough, laugh, or lift a heavy object?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    This is most likely related to normal hormone changes or possibly the use of oral contraceptives. It may also be related to PREGNANCY.


    Self Care

    Check for pregnancy with a home pregnancy test. See your doctor if the condition worsens or bothers you.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a yeast infection or CANDIDIASIS. FUNGAL INFECTIONS and IRRITATION from feminine hygiene sprays or douching can also cause a rash.


    Self Care

    See your doctor if this is the first time you’ve had these symptoms. Yeast infections may be treated with over-the-counter medicines. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing to allow the area to breathe. Fungal infections may be treated with an over-the-counter antifungal cream.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have PELVIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASE (PID), a serious infection around your fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus, or a sexually transmitted infection, such as TRICHOMONIASIS.


    Self Care

    URGENT
    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    This swelling might be from an INFECTION in a mucous gland or an ABSCESS or infection in the labia (vaginal lip).


    Self Care

    URGENT
    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    HERPES infections and other SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS often start with a sore or ulcer. These can also occur as friction-type burns after sexual intercourse.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. If you believe it is related just to friction during intercourse, consider using an over-the-counter lubricant specific for sex (e.g., K-Y Jelly). Do not use Vaseline or white petroleum jelly with latex condoms.


  • Diagnosis

    Painful intercourse may be a sign of INFECTION or HORMONE DEFICIENCY. During or after MENOPAUSE, it is normal to have dryness and decreased vaginal lubrication.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. He or she can determine the cause of your symptoms and suggest the best treatment for you. Vaginal dryness can be relieved with vaginal lubricants. Do not use Vaseline or white petroleum jelly with latex condoms.


  • Diagnosis

    Painful intercourse can be due to VAGINISMUS, an involuntary spasm of the muscles around the vagina.


    Self Care

    See your doctor if you think you may have VAGINISMUS. Treatment is available. Certain exercises, including the contraction and relaxation of pelvic muscles, may help improve muscle control.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a bladder infection, also known as a URINARY TRACT INFECTION (UTI) or CYSTITIS.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. Bladder infections are treated with antibiotics.


  • Diagnosis

    This may be a symptom of STRESS INCONTINENCE, a common condition after giving birth or later in life as your pelvic floor muscles weaken.


    Self Care

    Discuss the problem with your doctor. You can strengthen your bladder with Kegel exercises. Empty your bladder frequently to help prevent urine leaks. Protective shields or adult diapers may also help. Surgery may also be an option.


  • Self Care

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.


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