Vaginal ulcers are sores that develop on the vulva, which is the external female genitalia. It can occur as a result of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), various medical conditions, irritation, or injury. They appear like cracks or breaks in the skin around the vagina or the mucous membranes of the vagina, or in the form of surface tissue damage or sores on the vaginal area.
How Do They Form?
Ulcers often develop as a result of bacteria, virus, or germs that cause irritation to the sensitive issues in the vulva. The body’s response through the release of special cells lead to the worsening of the medical condition. This, in turn, causes small vaginal sores to develop on the vulva and its exposure to bacteria slows down the healing process.
10 Causes Of Genital Ulcers
1. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
The primary cause of vaginal ulcers, it is usually caused due to the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is followed by syphilis. However, there are other STIs too that can lead to the development of ulcers on the genitals, some of them being donovanosis, chlamydia, and chancroid. HIV can also manifest through ulcers in the genitals.
2. Fungal Infections
Vaginal yeast infection, caused by vulvovaginal candidiasis, is the most common fungus-induced infection that can cause vaginal erosions and vulva ulcers. Certain other symptoms of a fungal infection are increased vaginal discharge, burning sensation during urination and sex, and itching.
3. Viral Infections
Vaginal infections induced can also be caused by certain types of bacteria like cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and varicella zoster (the virus that causes shingles and chickenpox).
4. Bacterial Infections
Bacteria can cause sores in the vagina and are generally treated with antibiotics.
5. Inflammatory Conditions
There are various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases that can lead lesions to be formed around the vagina. These may look like ulcers, depending on their severity. Some examples of such health conditions are erosive lichen planus, Crohn’s disease, Behcet’s disease, among others.
6. Other Health Conditions
Certain health conditions like upper respiratory infections and tonsillitis, or virus-induced diarrhoea can lead to the formation of genital ulcers. This is more commonly observed among adolescent girls.
Excessive scratching or chronic rubbing of the vagina can cause skin irritations and even ulcers.
8. Drug Reactions
Certain antibiotics, sulfonamides, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may trigger ulcers on the genitals.
Vaginal cancer, which is usually more common among older women, can manifest through lesions around the vagina that resemble ulcers.
10. Skin Allergies
Allergies and other reactions on the skin caused due to skincare products can manifest through genital ulcers. In such cases, the product causing it has to be replaced, especially if you have sensitive skin.
6 Common Symptoms Of Vaginal Ulcers
The vaginal ulcers may primarily look like bumps or rashes. At times, it may also break, exposing the tissue. That apart, the possible symptoms of the health condition are as below. However, the condition may be asymptomatic, that is, it does not show any external signs.
- Discomfort or pain
- Burning sensation or pain during urination
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Enlarged lymph nodes
How Are They Diagnosed?
Vaginal ulcers, like all genital ulcers, have multiple causes. Therefore, your symptoms need to be thoroughly evaluated before arriving at the correct diagnosis. The diagnostic procedure is likely to follow the below steps:
- The healthcare practitioner will start by enquiring about your lifestyle and medical history.
- He/she may ask whether you’re sexually active to determine whether your symptoms may be caused by an STI.
- He/she may undertake a physical examination to analyse the risk of an STI and take a look at the pelvis and other areas like lymph nodes and groyne.
- Next, you may be recommended medical tests like blood tests, biopsy, and urinalysis.
5 Vaginal Ulcer Treatment Options
The treatment options for vaginal ulcers vary because there are multiple causes behind the disease. Certain instances like trauma-induced vulva ulcers may heal on their own and don’t need vaginal sores treatment. Otherwise, you may be prescribed treatments to prevent the infection from spreading further.
- For genital ulcers caused due to STIs, the treatment again varied based on the STI that is the root cause of your symptoms. For instance, while the virus-induced HIV require antiviral medications, chlamydia and syphilis are treated with antibiotics.
- Antifungal agents may be recommended to treat the medical condition when they are caused due to yeast infections. Some medications are available OTC (over-the-counter), while prescription medications may become necessary if there are chances of the yeast infection becoming a chronic one.
- Antihistamines are usually prescribed in the case of autoimmune problems or skin reactions being the cause of genital ulcers. These drugs calm the response of the immune system to allergenic substances, so your body stops creating the ulcers.
7 Preventive Measures For Vaginal Ulcers
- Practise safe sex and make sure that you aren’t injected with used needles, to eliminate the scope of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If it becomes the cause behind your vaginal ulcer, early treatment can help prevent lesions from appearing.
- Get vaccinated against HPV (Human papillomavirus).
- Get tested for STIs once a year. Maintain a monogamous physical relationship and get yourself and your partner tested every time you get into a new one. If being polyamorous is in your nature, ensure you and your partner undergo a STI test every time you have sex.
- Practise good hygiene by keeping your vagina clean with water and a milk soap. Refrain from using the commercial vaginal washes that do you more harm than good by ripping your vagina of its natural pH balance, unlike what they claim.
- Use only fragrance and chemical-free products on and around your genitals to avoid infections and other medical conditions.
- Make sure to urinate after sexual intercourse, so that any STI or other infections that may have made their way through your vaginal canal gets flushed out while peeing.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes as much as possible as they tend to keep grazing against your genital area, raising the chances of vaginal infections and even ulcers.
Vaginal ulcers should not occur provided you take care of your hygiene down there and also follow all the preventive measures we just discussed above. In case it does and you notice the possible symptoms of the medical condition, consult a doctor immediately, so it can be treated in its early stages. Take care of yourself and vaginal sores and ulcers can be kept at bay.
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