A fistula is an abnormal passageway from one part of the body to another, which isn’t meant to occur. Vaginal fistulas can connect either the bladder or rectum to the vagina, which cause leaks of either urine or stool into it. These can produce very foul-smelling and/or irritating discharges, even gas from the vagina or stool stains on underpants.
Vaginal fistulas are most common among women from underdeveloped countries, due to an absence of obstetric care during long and difficult childbirth. They can also be caused by local radiation therapy for cancer, by Crohn’s or other bowel diseases, and by gynecologic surgery.
Diagnosis can be difficult, because the fistulas can be very difficult to see. Gynecologists may try a variety of techniques, such as injecting dye into the rectum or bladder to see if any passes through. Treatment is surgical.
Various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) send teams of specialists to poor countries to diagnose fistulas and perform repairs. The latter can completely revive the lives of affected women there. Donations to such NGOs would surely be welcomed.