Some objects are designed for use in a woman's vagina. These include tampons, vaginal suppositories, and medications delivered through the vagina. Others are not intended to be inserted and may be placed there accidentally or intentionally. Doctors referred to objects found in the vagina as "foreign bodies." These foreign bodies may produce symptoms or be asymptomatic for long periods of time.
Small objects inserted into the vagina, do not generally cause pain. Unusual objects, generally those larger than the customary vaginal diameter, may cause pain because of distention. Other objects may cause pain due to sharp edges.
By Meryl Davids Landau
When you were in your 20s and 30s, you probably ignored random aches or other minor physical annoyances, and they usually went away. But now those symptoms can come back — often with a different cause, and calling for more serious attention.
Vaginal foreign bodies are very commonly seen in children. Adolescent girls may present with foreign bodies, which primarily consist of forgotten tampons or broken portions of condoms. Adults may also present to the emergency department with vaginal foreign objects, which may have been placed there intentionally as part of a sexual encounter or placed as part of an episode of abuse.
While a variety of symptoms may result from a foreign body in the vagina, the most common symptoms are bleeding or foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Less common symptoms may include pain or urinary discomfort.
Rarely do foreign bodies produce a systemic infection except in circumstances where the woman has a compromised immune system. Perforation through the vagina into the abdominal cavity may also result in acute abdominal symptoms.
Causes of a Vaginal Foreign Body
The most common foreign body of the vagina in small children is small amounts of fibrous material from things like clothing or carpets. Other foreign objects found in the vagina in children may be placed there at the time of self-exploration. They may be forgotten, or once placed in the vagina, unable to be removed by the child. Other common objects include marker caps or crayons. The objects found in children generally are small and do not cause pain from distention. Children will generally not place objects larger than the vaginal entrance due to discomfort.
Adolescent women may use tampons once their period begins. Occasionally, these tampons are forgotten and may not be removed for days. The breakage of a condom may also result in bits of latex or non-latex material being left in the vagina.
Adults may place foreign objects into the vagina as part of a sexual experience. Less commonly unusual objects may be placed in the vagina as the result of abuse. Adults may also experience forgotten tampons or bits of a condom.
While small objects placed in the vagina may remain for a period of time without symptoms, larger objects may produce pain or discomfort immediately, thus precipitating a visit to a doctor.