Normally, the walls of the vagina are solid and closed off from organs and tissues that surround it, such as the colon or urinary tract. However, if the vaginal wall is damaged, a hole called a fistula can form, creating an opening between the vaginal canal and the nearby structures.
There are four types of vaginal fistulas:
A vaginal fistula forms when damaged vaginal wall tissue starts to break down and eventually creates a hole. There are several possible causes, including complications during childbirth, surgery that involves the vaginal wall and radiation treatment for pelvic cancer.
Most fistulas are painless and cannot be felt. However, depending on the type of fistula, urine or feces can enter your vagina. You may experience urine leakage, gas or foul-smelling discharge, and your genitals may become irritated or infected.
The first step in diagnosing fistulas is a vaginal examination. If no tissue damage is visible, a dye test can help identify leakage. Your doctor may also recommend an X-ray, MRI or other tests to detect damaged tissue.
Minimally invasive surgery to repair the damaged tissue is the most common treatment for vaginal fistula.
We know that symptoms of a vaginal fistula may not be easy to talk about, and we’re here to help you find relief. Mercy experts treat sensitive gynecological problems every day with compassion and understanding, so you can get back to living life to the fullest.