What causes vaginal swelling?
Vaginal swelling can occur due to edema, inflammation, infection, cysts, abscesses or tumors. Edema may occur with conditions affecting other body systems, while the rest of the causes of vaginal swelling tend to only affect the vagina and reproductive organs.
Local causes of vaginal swelling
Vaginal swelling may be caused by diseases, disorders or conditions that affect the vagina and other reproductive organs including:
- Allergy or irritation due to exposure to soaps, feminine hygiene products, perfumes, lubricants, douches, creams, or latex
- Cysts or abscess of the Bartholin’s glands (also called greater vestibular glands, glands that secrete mucus located on either side of the vaginal opening)
- Gartner’s duct cysts (cysts that form around vaginal ducts that develop in the fetus and typically go away after birth)
- Genital herpes (sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2)
- Vaginal trauma
- Vaginal tumors (benign or cancerous)
- Yeast infection
Other causes of vaginal swelling
Vaginal swelling can also be caused by other diseases, disorders or conditions including:
- Fournier’s gangrene (a severe and life-threatening bacterial infection of the genital area that spreads from the urinary or gastrointestinal tracts)
- Heart failure (deterioration of the heart’s ability to pump blood)
- Lymphedema (swelling due to blocked or damaged lymphatic vessels)
- Pregnancy (due to compression of veins by the uterus)
- Venous insufficiency (poor blood flow through the veins)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of vaginal swelling
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your vaginal swelling including:
- When did you first notice your vaginal swelling?
- Is it painful?
- Have you changed soaps or detergents lately or started using any feminine hygiene products?
- Have you had vaginal swelling before?
- Is there anything that seems to make it better or worse?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- What medications are you taking?
What are the potential complications of vaginal swelling?
Because vaginal swelling can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
- Difficulty with sexual activity
- Spread of a sexually transmitted infection to a sexual partner
- Spread of cancer
- Spread of infection to other parts of the body
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sexually_transmitted_diseases.cfm. Accessed May 13, 2011.
Sexually transmitted diseases. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sexuallytransmitteddiseases.html. Accessed May 13, 2011.
What is vaginal swelling?
Swelling of the vagina can be generalized or may be present only in a limited location. Generalized swelling is known as edema. Edema results from fluid filling the tissues and may be associated with normal-looking, red or blotchy overlying skin. In inflammation, the skin is often swollen and red and may be warm to the touch.
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What other symptoms might occur with vaginal swelling?
Vaginal swelling may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the reproductive tract may also involve other body systems.