Vaginal Fistula - Topic Overview
What is a vaginal fistula?
A fistula is a passage or hole that has formed between:
- Two organs in your body.
organ in your body and your skin.
A fistula that has formed in the wall of the vagina is called a
- A vaginal fistula that opens into the urinary
tract is called a vesicovaginal fistula.
vaginal fistula that opens into the rectum is called a rectovaginal fistula.
- A vaginal fistula that opens
into the colon is called a colovaginal fistula.
- A vaginal fistula that opens into the small bowel
is called a enterovaginal fistula.
See pictures of a
vesicovaginal fistula and a
rectovaginal 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 can cause
soiling problems that you cannot control.
- If you have a vesicovaginal fistula, you most
likely have fluid leaking or flowing out of your vagina.
- If you
have a rectovaginal, colovaginal, or enterovaginal fistula, you most likely
have foul-smelling discharge or gas coming from your vagina.
genital area may get infected or sore.
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:
- The use of dye in the vagina (and maybe the
bladder or rectum) to find all signs of leakage.
- Urinalysis to
check for infection.
- Blood test (complete blood count) to check for
signs of infection in your body.
Your doctor may also use an X-ray, endoscope or MRI to get a clear look
and check for all possible tissue damage.