What is a fistula?

A fistula is defined as an abnormal opening between two hollow organs. Fistulas in women are commonly caused by obstetric trauma, but can also be caused by complications during surgery or preexisting chronic conditions that affect the neighboring organs. There are different tracts where a fistula can form, and most often cause complications to one’s daily life.

Types of fistulas

Ano-vaginal and recto-vaginal fistulas are abnormal openings that connect the lower gastrointestinal tract with the vagina. This can cause complications because as feces pass through the lower GI tract, pieces of stool can pass through the opening and enter the vagina, or become lodged in the opening and cause blockage. Having stool exit one’s vagina not only poses a menace to one’s social and sexual life, but it is also unsanitary and can cause recurring vaginal and bladder infections.

Vesico-vaginal fistula is characterized by an opening between a woman’s bladder and her vagina. This opening causes constant leakage of urine and discharge out of a woman’s vagina, causing her to wear pads or even tampons on a consistent basis.

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