Everything You Need to Know About Vaginal Crohn’s
We all know Crohn's disease can impact every part of our body. From achy joints to sore skin, the manifestations of IBD goes far beyond our digestive system.
But recently, I learned about another part of this: vaginal Crohn's. I'll be honest, it was something I hadn't really heard of before, but when one of my readers got in touch to share their experiences, I began to do some more research.
Part of what I aim to do in my writing is to shine a spotlight on lesser-known aspects of IBD, so I thought today I'd tell you a little more about vaginal Crohn's....
What is vaginal Crohn's?
Vaginal Crohn's or "Crohn's disease of the vulva" is a (fortunately) rare complication of Crohn's disease. It comes under genital Crohn's, which can also occur in males (but it is said to be more common in females).
Vaginal Crohn's manifests itself in the following ways:
- Swellings of the labia which may be inflamed.
- Ulcers of the vulva. These may be deep or superficial
- Fistulas. Patients can develop rectovaginal fistulas (in which a connection develops between the rectum and vagina); symptoms of which include the passing of gas, stool or pus from the vagina area.
- Skin tags
- Bacterial Infections
- Painful Intercourse
- Painful Urination
How common is vaginal Crohn's?
Whilst vaginal Crohn's is not common, those with perianal disease might notice some crossover since a study found 81% of those with vaginal Crohn's had active perianal disease.1 Therefore, whilst all females should be aware of the symptoms, those with perianal disease, in particular, should pay close attention.
What is the treatment for vaginal Crohn's?
The way vaginal Crohn's is treated depends on the severity of the condition. Some patients might require surgery (for example a vulvectomy in extreme cases which can partially or fully remove the vulva) whilst others might require things like antibiotics and antifungal creams.
Standard medication to treat the gastro symptoms of Crohn's (such as steroids and >biologic drugs) have also been found to help heal vaginal Crohn's.1 Because the condition is so rare, treatment does seem to depend on the individual and isn't as standardised as other aspects of Crohn's.
What should I do if I suspect I have it?
The reason why I wanted to write this article is that many women don't necessarily connect our Crohn's disease with the rest of our bodies. You might well be seeing a separate gynecologist for your issues and not even think about mentioning these symptoms to your gastro team.
Firstly, don't panic – some of the above symptoms might not always indicate vaginal Crohn's. For example, a bacterial infection can be caused by many things; as can general soreness and pain when urinating/during intercourse.
However, it is important you talk to your doctor who will be able to examine you, do an MRI if necessary and do swab tests to see if any infection is present.
Finding support for genital Crohn's
Whilst a gynecologist will still be your first point of call, it is well worth ensuring your medical team is connected and see this as a part of Crohn's.
Finally, don't be afraid to speak about it and seek support. Whilst vaginal Crohn's isn't common, there are people in the same boat as you; who can offer invaluable support.
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