Any gynaecological issue will be worrying, however most are completely treatable and are symptomatic of minor issues; below is a list of symptoms and the possible diagnosis they represent. Your personal gynaecologist will be able to give you a definitive diagnosis. We use the most advanced diagnosis techniques and sophisticated scans so that the diagnosis is exceptionally accurate and non invasive.
Vaginal bleeding and discharge are a normal part of your menstrual cycle prior to menopause. However, if you notice anything different or unusual, consult your gynaecologist before attempting to diagnose the problem yourself.
Symptoms may result from mild infections that are easy to treat. But, if they are not treated properly, they can lead to more serious conditions, including infertility or kidney damage. Vaginal symptoms may also be a sign of more serious problems, from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to cancers of the reproductive tract.
The most common symptoms are listed below and can relate to a number of different issues, if you experience any of these it is recommended that you visit your gynaecologist as soon as possible.
- Bleeding between periods
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate, or a burning sensation during urination
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, particularly during or after intercourse
- Pain or pressure in your pelvis that differs from menstrual cramps
- Itching, burning, swelling, redness, or soreness in the vaginal area
- Sores or lumps in the genital area
- Vaginal discharge with an unpleasant or unusual odour, or of an unusual colour
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
The symptoms may suggest what the underlying issue is but it is important to get a professional opinion at the first sign of any of these issues, as they will be able to correctly diagnose and properly treat the exact issue.
General gynaecological symptoms
Increase in vaginal discharge – Bleeding between periods or heavier periods than normal with increased vaginal discharge. There may be a burning feeling in the vagina and urethra that could be mistaken for a urinary tract infection (cystitis). There may also be irritation around the anus and a need to urinate frequently. These are symptoms of gonorrhoea, a sexually transmitted disease.
Discharge with burning pain – Unusual vaginal discharge, burning pain when urinating, lower abdominal pain and a frequent need to urinate; these are all signs of a sexually transmitted disease called chlamydia.
Vaginal Dryness – Tissue lining of the vagina becomes thinner and drier. There may be burning pain on urination, you need to urinate more frequently and/or there is urinary incontinence (sneezing leads to a leakage). There may be discomfort during sexual intercourse and a tightening of the vaginal canal. These are signs of vaginal atrophy a condition that is more common after menopause.
Soreness and itching – sore and itchy vagina (internally and externally), with vaginal discharge can suggest vaginitis.
Heavy Periods – A heavy period is defined as soaking a pad or tampon every hour for more than 3 hours, or bleeding for longer than 7 days. There may be large clots in the menstrual flow, cramps, back pain and extreme tiredness and shortness of breath. These are possible symptoms of menorrhagia.
Missed Periods – There are many reasons for absent periods, including menopause and pregnancy. If these are ruled out and your periods do not return within 6 months, you may have amenorrhea.
Irregular period – Periods become irregular and you start to experience hot flashes. These are typical signs of menopause
Irregular periods with excess facial hair – Irregular or absent periods, noticeable facial hair, oily skin and acne, and difficulties in losing weight are all signs of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Heavy periods with constipation – Heavy periods, a permanent feeling of fullness, sometimes constipation and pain during sexual intercourse can suggest fibroids.
Changes in periods – Periods which suddenly become heavy or regular spotting between periods or after menopause should be checked for signs of endometrial hyperplasia. This can be a precursor to endometrial cancer.
Painful periods with constipation – Painful periods, cramps occurring 1-2 weeks before period is due, constipation, and pain during sexual intercourse, there may also be some diarrhea and nausea. This combination of symptoms can suggest endometriosis.
Piercing pain between periods – Piercing pelvic pain between periods, bad cramps during your period, bleeding between periods are symptoms of adenomyosis.
Bleeding between periods – If there is bleeding between periods, or they become irregular or heavy then this can be a symptom of polyps
Painful periods with shoulder pain – Periods may become irregular, pain during intercourse, bloating and pain in shoulders are signs of ovarian cysts.
Abnormal bleeding with bloating – Bleeding between periods, blood stained vaginal discharge, dull abdominal pain, and a bloated feeling are possible symptoms of fallopian tube cancer.
Itchy vulva – inflammation and itching of the vulva tissue is often vulvitis and is usually caused by yeast infections or an STI.
Heavy periods with smelly discharge – You periods seem to be getting heavier by the month, there is bleeding in between periods, particularly after sexual intercourse. There is a heavy, foul smelling discharge. These may be signs of early stages of cervical cancer, a condition called cervical dysplasia. Ask your doctor to perform a pap smear test
Discharge that has a fishy odour – Grey, fishy smelling vaginal discharge that is worse after having sex or washing with soap, there may also be itchiness or irritation in and around the vulva and vagina. These are possible symptoms of vagititis.
Discharge with an odour of cheese – Thick white discharge that looks like cottage cheese, may smell yeasty like bread, usually accompanied by itching and a burning sensation when urinating would suggest a yeast infection.
Patient Information Sheets
Nuada Gynaecology makes Patient Information Sheets available to assist patients in understanding their condition and treatment in general. We recommend that patients consult with their specialist to fully appreciate their own personal programme of care.
*All files are in pdf file format and open in a new window.
More information & further reading
Use of routine videocystourethrography in the evaluation of female lower urinary tract dysfunction.
Barnick C, Cardozo L, Benness C. 2005