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Causes Vaginal Swelling

For some women, the vagina is the most ignored part of the body and only in the case of an infection do they really start taking care of it. You must have read about vaginal health and its implications on the body. If you don’t take proper care, the chances of infection, redness, and swelling increases.

There might be other reasons your vaginal health suffers, and one of the common problems many women face is Vaginal swelling. Are you aware of its causes? If not, then continue reading below to know what vaginal swelling is, its causes, and likely treatments.

A] What is Vaginal Swelling?

Vaginal swelling may happen at any time and generally is not a cause for concern. Menstruation, intercourse, and pregnancy are some of the common reasons that may cause it. At times, vaginal swelling may be a result of a disorder or a disease. It is important to understand what is causing the swelling, so you can treat it accordingly. If you develop fever, pain, and swelling, you may have to immediately book a private gynaecology appointment or visit your doctor for a check-up. In severe cases, seeking immediate medical care is a must.

Further reading: Vaginal Pain: Causes and Treatment

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B] Causes of Vaginal Swelling

1. Irritation that affects the vagina directly

Some products may irritate your vaginal tissue leading to irritation, swelling, and pain. This includes latex condoms, lubricants, creams, tampons, and even douches. For most women, tampons can be uncomfortable and can cause swelling in the vagina. If you notice irritation or swelling around the vaginal area after using a specific product, you need to stop using it as it may be unsuitable for your skin. Also, if the swelling and irritation persist, then you need to consult with a specialist as it may be a sign of infection. 

2. Indirect Irritation

The vaginal wash that you use may contain chemicals that can irritate the vaginal area, especially if your skin is ultra-sensitive. Chemicals in the bubble bath can irritate the vaginal tissue, vulva, and labia. Many perfumed products and harsh toilet papers can cause swelling if your skin is sensitive. You might even experience burning and swelling in the vagina. So avoid these products, and if the itchiness doesn’t reduce, visit your doctor who might prescribe a cream to help alleviate the condition.

3. Intercourse

Vaginal swelling can happen after ardent intercourse, especially if it is your first experience. If the vagina is not lubricated, the friction can cause discomfort. Vaginal trauma from sexual assault can also cause vaginal swelling, pain, and burning. In most cases, you won’t need treatment for this. If the swelling does not go away, use an over-the-counter pain reliever. Further reading: What You Need to Know About Dyspareunia (Painful Intercourse): Causes and Treatments.

4. Yeast Infection

Yeast infection occurs when too much yeast grows in the vagina, resulting in inflammation. Most women experience a yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. A yeast infection causes swelling, burning, and discomfort. At times, there can be pain during urination or discomfort during sexual intercourse.

There may be redness or inflammation, and some women may experience white discharge. Yeast infection is treated with medications or anti-fungal treatments. Don’t ignore the symptoms if they persist, as the sooner the doctor diagnosis the problem, the better it is.

Further reading: Vaginal Discharge: All You Need to Know 

5. Bacterial Vaginosis

A balance of good bacteria keeps the vagina healthy. But at times, bad bacteria grows rapidly and outnumbers the good bacteria, leading to a bacterial vaginosis infection. You may experience symptoms like swelling, burning, white discharge, odour, and itching.

This common vaginal infection mostly affects women in the age groups of 15 to 45. It can also affect sexually active women. Treatment is usually not needed as the bacterial balance restores itself naturally. However, if you still experience symptoms after a week, you may need some anti-bacterial medications. Some doctors may also prescribe vaginal gels for treatment. 

6. Cervicitis

Most sexually transmitted diseases cause the condition of the inflamed cervix. Not all women who develop cervicitis have STD or infections. Plus, some women may not show any symptoms. If there is swelling in the area due to inflammation, it may cause pelvic pain and yellow vaginal discharge.

At times, it may also cause spotting between periods. If the condition gets severe, the doctor will collect a swab of fluid from the top of the cervix area to look for the possible cause. Doctors may also prescribe medications based on your condition. 

7. Pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause many problems, and swelling in the vagina is one of them. As the fetus grows in size, pressure in the pelvic region causes the blood to pool, so fluids may not drain well and can cause swelling and discomfort in the vagina.

For persistent swelling, try lying down which may reduce swelling. Once your delivery is over, the swelling will go away. If you feel any discomfort during this phase, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe an over-the-counter gel to ease swelling. 

8. Genital Herpes

It is the most common type of STD that causes small clusters of painful blisters. These blisters may burst and ooze a clear fluid, which can be quite painful. After the blisters burst, the spots may turn into painful sores and take more than a week to heal. With swelling, you might also experience pain, body ache, and fever. Not every person with genital herpes will experience blisters. Some don’t have any symptoms or have a small bump in the region. Though there is no treatment, some medications may prevent the outbreak of blisters. 

9. Bartholin Cyst

Bartholin glands help produce the lubricating mucus and are located near the vaginal opening. If infected, the glands can be filled with pus or even form an abscess. If there is a cyst, it may cause pain, discomfort, bleeding, and swelling.

A small cyst drains on its own and disappears with time. A warm sitz bath may reduce the pain and discomfort caused by the condition. If the condition persists for long, your doctor may suggest some antibiotic treatments or surgical draining of the cyst. 

10. Gartner’s Duct Cyst

A remnant of the vaginal duct in the fetus causes Gartner’s duct and goes away after a woman gives birth to a child. However, if the remnants remain, it attaches to vaginal wall to develop cysts. Unless the cysts grow and cause pain, the cyst is not a cause of concern.

But an infected cyst can form an abscess or a mass outside the vaginal wall. Gartner’s duct may require surgery in most cases. When the cyst is removed, it eliminates all symptoms. You should not ignore the symptoms of the cyst or else it may cause other infections in the body.

When You Need to See a Doctor?

Vaginal swelling is not a cause of concern in most cases. But you will need to see a doctor if the symptoms occur with fever or chills. If your symptoms last for more than one week, it may be a severe infection. At times, the swelling may become painful, so you need to visit the doctor and seek immediate medical help. Most doctors conduct a pelvic examination to look for the cause of infection. They may also perform blood tests or sampling tests to detect the cause of infection.

How You Can Prevent the Swelling?

  • Try keeping your genital region clean and dry. Wear cotton underwear that is comfortable and loose.
  • Don’t use harsh soaps as it affects the PH balance of the vagina. You can use a medicated wash or water for cleaning the area.
  • Soak in a warm water bath at least once a week.
  • Don’t apply sprays, powders, or harmful products near the vagina.
  • If your skin is prone to infection, it is better to use pads instead of tampons which may cause vaginal swelling.
  • Keep your blood sugar level in control if you have diabetes.
  • Avoid douches as they may affect the healthy bacteria.

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Vaginal swelling does not take a severe form in most cases. But if the signs persist for long, you need to visit your doctor. Vaginal health is as important as the health of any other body part. Some studies have also shown a link between stress and vaginal infections. So, keep your stress under control and maintain vaginal hygiene to prevent possible infection or swelling.

Further Reading: 10 Important Symptoms That Women Should Never Ignore Says Gynaecologist

Neha Goel

Neha Goel, a Psychology alumna and MBA graduate from CASS Business School, London, brings together her expertise as a Reiki Practitioner and Practice Manager. She integrates psychology and business strategies to foster holistic well-being and personal development.