What is a vaginal fistula?
A fistula is a passage or hole that has formed between:
A fistula that has formed in the wall of the vagina is called a vaginal fistula.
What causes a vaginal fistula?
A vaginal fistula starts with some kind of tissue damage. After days to years of tissue breakdown, a fistula opens up.
Vaginal fistulas are not a common problem in developed countries. But a fistula does sometimes happen after:
In developing countries where women have no health care nearby, vaginal fistulas are much more common. After days of pushing a baby that does not fit through the birth canal, very young mothers can have severe vaginal, bladder, or rectal damage, sometimes causing fistulas.
What are the symptoms?
A vaginal fistula is painless. But a fistula lets urine or feces pass into your vagina. This is called incontinence. And it causes embarrassing soiling problems that you cannot control.
How is a vaginal fistula diagnosed?
Your symptoms are the most clear signs of a vaginal fistula. Your doctor will want to talk about your symptoms and about any surgery, trauma, or disease that could have caused a fistula. For a physical exam, your doctor will use a speculum to look at the vaginal walls. You may have other tests, such as:
Your doctor may also use an X-ray or scope to get a clear look and check for all possible tissue damage.
How is it treated?
If you have a vaginal fistula, you will most likely need surgery to repair it. Before surgery, your doctor will see whether the tissue is healthy or needs to heal first.
After fistula repair surgery, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions. See your doctor right away if you have signs of infection, such as a fever, tenderness, swelling, or redness.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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