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.
- An organ in your body and your skin.
A fistula that has formed in the wall of the vagina is called a vaginal fistula.
- A vaginal fistula that opens into the urinary tract is called a vesicovaginal fistula.
- A 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.
- Your 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:
Your doctor may also use an X-ray, endoscope or MRI to get a clear look and check for all possible tissue damage.