Vulvovaginal discomfort

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The specific symptoms of vaginal pain and discomfort vary, depending on the underlying cause.

Depending on each person, one or more of the following symptoms associated with vaginal pain may be experienced:

  • Burning
  • Itchiness
  • Pain
  • Stinging
  • Pain during intercourse

If vaginal pain is caused by an infection, abnormal vaginal discharge may develop.

Vulvovaginitis

Vulvitis or vulvovaginitis is the inflammation of the genital area. This inflammation is usually accompanied by various symptoms such as stinging, itching, pain when urinating and abnormal vaginal discharge, among others.

Vulvovaginitis in childhood

Although these can occur at any stage of life, vulvovaginitis is common in girls and accounts for around 25% of visits to the paediatric gynaecologist. Inadequate hygiene habits together with the lack of oestrogens and the characteristics of the vaginal mucosa in girls (thinner and with an alkaline pH) make them more prone to developing infections in the genital area.

It is common for episodes of vulvovaginitis to occur between 2 and 7 years of age, since during this period, girls begin to walk and become independent from adults, but have not yet developed hygiene and self-care skills.

What are the causes of vulvovaginitis?

As is the case for the skin, the female genital area has a defence system against external aggressions. The thickness of the vaginal epithelium, its degree of desquamation, and vaginal secretion constitute the physical barrier (through removal), whilst the ecosystem of the vaginal flora (mainly the genus lactobacillus) constitutes the chemical barrier, which due to the production of an acidic pH, protects it from other pathogenic microorganisms.

This epithelium and vaginal flora do not have constant properties throughout a woman's life. Instead, they undergo physiological changes with age as a result of hormonal changes (from when they are newborns until menopause). There are other conditions that promote a vaginal imbalance, such as diabetes mellitus, a very active sexual life, pharmacological therapies (oral contraceptives, antibiotics, etc.), poor hygiene and exposure to irritants (unsuitable intimate hygiene products).

These disorders contribute to the appearance of vaginal mucosa which is susceptible to irritation, inflammation and even infection.

Symptoms of vulvovaginitis

The symptoms of vulvovaginitis vary and depend on its cause. In general, symptoms can include:

  • Irritation in the genital area
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling around the lips and perineal areas
  • Increased vaginal discharge and strong odour
  • Discomfort when urinating

The doctor will diagnose vulvovaginitis by evaluating the symptoms and possibly collecting a sample of vaginal discharge for analysis.

Tips to prevent vulvovaginitis

The following tips can help prevent the occurrence of vulvovaginitis:

  • You should always wipe from front to back and not vice versa, after going to the bathroom. This avoids dragging germs from the anal to the vulvovaginal area.
  • Use neutral intimate gels that do not irritate or alter the pH of the vaginal mucosa.
  • Avoid vaginal douches as they remove the normal flora of the vagina.
  • Wear cotton underwear and change it frequently.
  • Avoid wearing excessively tight stockings, leggings, or pants.
  • Remove tampons at night.
  • Avoid oral-genital sexual practices.

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