If you ever wondered what you look like down there, you might have taken a little pocket mirror and looked at yourself from a different angle. However, most of us will probably only do that if we have reasons to believe something is wrong. If you experience vaginal itching, irritation and pain, then you are likely to notice that your vulva looks red and sometimes swollen.
This is commonly known as vaginal redness. In medical terms, vaginal redness is referred to as vulvovaginitis, an inflammation of the tissue of the vulva and vagina. Besides redness, vulvovaginitis can have one or several other symptoms such as unusual discharge, unpleasant odor, itching, irritation, a burning sensation during or after sexual intercourse, or while urinating.
The inflammation of the tissue that manifests as redness can be caused by various factors, the most common of which is infection, such as vaginal yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. These conditions are not considered to be transmittable between partners, so there is no need to restrain from sex, although sexual activity can be unpleasant when vaginal redness occurs. If the cause of infection is an STD, usually both partners should be treated.
However, the cause of vaginal redness is not always down to infection. The sensitive tissue of the vulva and the vagina can easily show an allergic or irritation reaction to substances found in the environment, like perfumes, soaps or preservatives. In fact, products like scented pads or toilet paper, harsh detergents or shampoos, fabric conditioners etc., often contain ingredients that can cause allergies or give irritation. Another common reason for redness is physical irritation, usually due to sports, heat or synthetic underwear.
The first step in treating vulvovaginitis is to remove the cause of the inflammation. Consult your doctor to make sure you find out the source of the problem. If the inflammation is caused by an infection, an antibiotic or antimycotic therapy is often prescribed. Using a vaginal prebiotic alongside or after the antibiotic therapy can help restore the balance of the vaginal flora, and minimise the chance of a repeated infection. However, if redness is caused by an allergic reaction or a physical irritant, it is not always easy to identify and remove the culprit. In this case it is probably best to avoid all possible causes, and then to slowly introduce them back one by one.
Even though it is best to remove the cause of the problem, fast relief of the symptoms is often helpful. Look for itch relief products, or sprays and gels with cooling effects that can be bought over the counter. Make sure that these products are designed for the intimate area, and that they do not contain any potential allergens or irritants.Related: Vaginal infection causes, symptoms and treatment