Do you ever notice itchiness and irritation in your intimate area just before your period? You could be living with cytolytic vaginosis. Here we’ll explain exactly what cytolytic vaginosis is, how to reduce your risk of developing it and how to treat it if you do!
What is Cytolytic Vaginosis?
Cytolytic vaginosis is a condition where a bacteria known as lactobacilli become overgrown in your vagina (which is why it’s also sometimes known as lactobacillus overgrowth syndrome!)
It is totally normal to have lactobacillus in your vagina. They are generally good bacteria which help to protect your body from yeast or other infections. However, just like in your gut, your vaginal bacteria balance is very delicate. If you have too much lactobacillus, you may develop cytolytic vaginosis, which can be pretty uncomfortable and sometimes painful. The symptoms include:
- Itchiness and irritation inside your vagina or on your vulva
- Redness around your vulva
- A burning sensation when you go to the toilet - could feel like a UTI
- Pain during or after sex
- A change in your discharge - could be increased amounts or a more yellowy color
Cytolytic vaginosis vs bacterial vaginosis
You might be thinking that these symptoms sound very similar to those of a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis - and you'd be right! But the one main difference is that cytolytic vaginosis seems to be connected to your menstrual cycle - with symptoms worse in your late luteal phase, just before your period arrives.
This is because, at this point of your menstrual cycle, your vagina naturally has higher levels of lactobacilli. When your period arrives, if you're dealing with cytolytic vaginosis rather than BV, you will usually notice that symptoms ease off - as period blood has low acidity so will neutralize the pH level of your vagina.
Vaginal pH levels and Cytolytic Vaginosis
What does your pH level have to do with cytolytic vaginosis? Your vaginal pH level tells you a lot about your vaginal health. The higher the pH level the more acidic an environment is - and whilst you want a little bit of acidity in your vagina to protect you from infection, if the pH level gets too high it can cause you irritation as well as have a knock-on effect on other areas of your health.
Your pH level can change with age, lifestyle and throughout your menstrual cycle. For example, your cervical mucus will become less acidic around the time of your fertile window, so it’s easy for sperm to survive! However, your vagina usually sits somewhere between 3.8 and 5 and anything less than 7 is classed as acidic. But, if you have cytolytic vaginosis, the increased number of bacteria can increase your pH level, so it may be closer to 3.5-4.5. That subtle change in acidity can cause a whole load of problems!
How To Diagnose Cytolytic and Treat Vaginosis
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms we mentioned above, we would highly recommend going to see your doctor. Even if it’s not cytolytic vaginosis, pain and irritation are signs from your body that something isn’t right.
Your doctor will likely do a pelvic exam and take a sample of discharge from your vagina to analyze. They will be looking to see whether you have a high level of lactobacilli but also whether you have a low level of white blood cells and what your pH level is. They will also be looking to eliminate other causes of your symptoms such as yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
It can also be really helpful to keep a symptoms diary and share this with your doctor. That way if the symptoms are connected to your menstrual cycle (and worse before your period) they will be able to see the correlation clearly.
Treatment for Cytolytic Vaginosis varies but it may be that your doctor puts you on a course of antibiotics. Dr Google will sometimes tell you to douche to help clear out the bacteria - but that isn’t something we recommend! Douching can actually do more harm than good when it comes to your vaginal health.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Cytolytic Vaginosis
The best way to reduce your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis is to make lifestyle changes that keep your vaginal pH balanced and discourage bacteria overgrowth. These can include;
- Avoiding soaps or any other products that contain chemicals or fragrances (try our Intimate Cleanser instead which is totally natural and won’t mess with your pH balance!)
- Use our reusable pads or panties instead of a cup during your period - this is because your menstrual blood can actually calm your pH level and naturally soothe your symptoms!
- Never sit around in damp or sweaty clothes - if you workout get changed and showered straight away and if you go swimming get out of your swimsuit as soon as possible
- Go underwear free where you can! If you do need to wear underwear make sure it's cotton - like our Period Panties
- Try to avoid sex when symptoms are flaring up as it can increase the irritation