Aunt Vadge: I’m quite dry and my vagina burns – am I infected?

Dear Aunt Vadge,

How do I know if my vagina is infected? My lubrication level has gone down, and when I insert my finger it burns. I am really worried because I feel like I can’t have sex anymore.

Are these the symptoms for any sort of infection? Am 21 years old and I have had sex before but I didn’t experience any pain then. Please help me.

Yours,
Unsure

_________

Hello there Unsure,

Your symptoms are a bit vague, with a lack of lubrication, and burning when you insert your finger. These symptoms don’t immediately stick out as an identifiable problem, but they could definitely be microbe-related.

If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t have sex, and the burning is uncomfortable and it feels like it isn’t getting any better, stop in at your local sexual health clinic and getting someone to take some swabs or at least have a look. Swabs can easily tell a doctor what sort of bacteria are living inside your vagina, and if there is an infection, it can then be treated accordingly.

Keep in mind there are only a handful of infections that your vagina will manifest signs of:

  1. Sexually transmitted infections (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes, warts)
  2. Bacterial vaginosis
  3. Yeast infections

Otherwise you may have what’s known as vaginitis, which is a really non-specific name for ‘inflammation of the vagina’. Now, this doesn’t explain anything, it just gives it a name, so you need to find out if A) you have vaginitis and B) what has caused it. It can be caused by infections.

When you lose lubrication, it is because something – we don’t know what – is affecting the production of vaginal secretions from the glands and mucous membranes of your vagina. Again, there are a lot of very common and non-threatening issues that can cause this. They usually go away by themselves, but if anything goes on for longer than three days and isn’t getting better, there is something wrong. Our bodies are too clever to have a problem sustain itself in that way, and you need to be checked.

So, Unsure, you need to go and get a check-up. If they come back and find nothing at all, then write back to us and tell us everything – there will be a reason, and we can figure it out from there. And don’t worry – you probably aren’t going to die, so you can relax!

These things tend to resolve themselves after a few days, but it’s important you know what is happening to you by being checked out by your local sexual health clinic if it does not. There should be a free one near you with someone you can at the very least describe, in their entirety, your symptoms to, and they can ask you about your sexual history, your health history, and figure out what’s going on.

In the meantime, stop putting things in your vagina, eat some fermented foods to help your good bacteria along no matter what the cause, and importantly, don’t panic. Your vagina can seem to have a mind of its own at times, but it is merely trying to tell you something. Just listen and figure out what that is. We are here to help, so get the tests, and then if you still need help, we’ll talk.

Looking forward to hearing what they say!

Kindest regards,
Aunt Vadge

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.