Cytolytic vaginosis (CV) is a little-understood gynaecological condition, assumed to be qualified by an overgrowth that a kind of so-called "good" bacteria in the vagina. Sure, this sound pretty small fry, in terms of things that have the right to go dorn in that most fragile of ecosystems. But the present thinking is the this imbalance reasons a more acidic pH level in the area and irritates her vaginal wall – potentially bring about some nasty symptoms.

These range from discomfort in the vagina, itching and also burning on the vulva, pain during sex – or finding penetrative sex impossible, completely – and also white or yellowish discharge (for this reason, it can be mistaken because that thrush or bacterial vaginosis.)

As you could expect through something that"s not been so well researched, it"s likewise controversial. No all gynaecologists accept it as a stand-alone diagnosis and also one current review the the present data declared that, as soon as it involves making receiving one, over there is "inadequate criteria because that excluding other causes of vulvovaginal symptoms."

Between the periods of 23 and also 24, after ~ a year of looking for answers to her debilitating pain, Lucy* was ultimately diagnosed through the condition, through a exclusive gynaecologist. Here, 4 years on, she shares her experience.

Living through Cytolytic Vaginosis: what occurred to me

It was 2am and, just like every various other night, I had spent the critical three hrs trawling net forums, desperately searching for an answer. However again, I found nothing.

As ns lay on mine bedroom floor sobbing, the realisation that this can not – or even could not – be addressed paralysed me. I would certainly never have actually sex again, that was certain. I required to involved terms through the fact that I would certainly surely end up alone, loveless and childless. I thought about all the time I had actually taken things for granted: intimacy, exercise, attract underwear, not being in pain.

My body was numb, save for the searing sensation pulsating from mine vagina. Through this point, the pain to be constant.

The reason of my experiencing was a small known and also often controversial condition, called cytolytic vaginosis (CV). If you’ve heard the it, I’m surprised. Ns hadn’t, and also neither had actually most that the numerous nurses, doctors, gynaecologists, dermatologists, GPs and also sexual health professionals I saw. Mine symptoms were an enigma.

What is Cytolytic Vaginosis?

Also well-known as "lactobacillus overgrowth syndrome" or "Doderlein"s cytolysis," follow to specialist exclusive gynaecologist Dr Austin Ugwumadu, the UK medical meaning of CV is: ‘A problem of the vagina characterised by an overgrowth/excess number of the common acid-producing Lactobacillus (so-called "good bacteria"), lysis (or destruction/fragmentation) of vaginal epithelial cells, ceiling nuclei, and lack of inflammation.’

In level speak, the delicate balance that bacteria in her vagina – also known together your quality microbiome – is compromised, due to an overgrowth the a group of acid-producing bacteria species which space grouped under the name "Lactobacillus." (These are crucial for keeping vaginal health and protect the vagina from epidemic – it"s the fact that over there is one overgrowth that is the issue. Commonly labelled as a "good" bacteria, you might have watched this native on the next of a packet that probiotics or on pots that yoghurt.)

This, the reasoning is, deserve to irritate the cells of the quality wall, bring about them to be damaged and also to also break away, being melted with her usual discharge, if the pH level that the area advice into much more "acidic" territory. Some ladies may have this issue and not endure symptoms, while because that others, choose me, the pain can be stratospheric. Naturally, some instances will loss somewhere along this gradient.

Currently, there is no data on how plenty of people resolve this problem

Currently, there is no data on how many people attend to this problem. It should be listed that not all medical professionals accept it together a stand-alone diagnosis – and one recent review the the currently data stated that, when it comes to making a CV diagnosis, over there is "inadequate criteria for excluding other reasons of vulvovaginal symptoms, specifically Vulvovaginal Candidiasis "

While this trouble has to be referenced in a small amount of scientific literature, countless health experts I spoke to had actually not heard that it. One denied it exists, saying that it is "impossible" to have too much "good" bacteria.


"There is still much that us don’t know around painful quality conditions, including Cytolytic Vaginosis"


When ns asked for an opinion indigenous the imperial College of Obstetricians and also Gynaecologists top top the matter, ns was said this by spokesperson Dr Caroline Overton. "There is still much that we don’t know about painful quality conditions, consisting of Cytolytic Vaginosis. Plenty of women endure with quality pain i beg your pardon isn’t diagnosed for years and also without a diagnosis, treatment choices are regrettably limited.

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What is cytolysis and what causes it?

"There is enhancing interest in the vaginal microbiome, which way the delicate balance of bacteria, yeasts and fungi discovered in the vagina – yet we still have actually a long method to go to completely understanding it.


"There continues to be a far-ranging gap in data when it concerns women and also girls, and what the RCOG would favor to check out is clinical research coming to be much much more inclusive to ensure they obtain the advice and treatment that"s ideal for them for this reason they deserve to lead happy and healthy lives. Us encourage women through painful symptoms no to suffer in silence and also seek a referral come a gynaecologist therefore a diagnosis and also treatment deserve to be explored."

When asked around the issue, meanwhile, one NHS spokesperson offered the complying with response: "Conditions like this can be complicated and an overwhelming to diagnose, every one of which method they are understandably distressing for people affected, i beg your pardon is why we would certainly urge anyone enduring painful vaginal symptoms to call their GP or to to visit a sex-related health business so the they have the right to be ad for suitable diagnostic examinations."

What reasons Cytolytic Vaginosis?

So, why might this problem occur? ‘In the vast majority of cases, the an exact cause of CV is unknown, though it might be connected to the intake or topical applications of huge quantities of probiotics and natural strengthened yoghurt over lengthy periods, or pregnancy, as the populace of Lactobacillus species increase with progressing pregnancy," explains Dr Ugwumadu.


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My CV, ns was ultimately advised, was probably resulted in by extensive use the antibiotics, antifungals and also probiotics. It was a domino effect. Initially, ns was prescribed strong, long-term antibiotics because that a persistent bladder infection. An extensive antibiotic use can reason thrush, and, in my case, the effects were severe. Anyone that has actually suffered from extreme thrush will certainly likely have actually tried probiotics, which space often taken into consideration a safe way to bolster your ‘friendly bacteria,’ in the area.

To shot and remedy the situation, ns consumed large amounts the probiotics – two capsules the a solid blend a work – and went through multiple huge tubs of natural live yoghurt a week. Linked with substantial quantities that antifungal medication, I think that i unknowingly had actually a recipe for disaster. The thrush cleared, and what i was left with was much worse.

What room the symptom of Cytolytic Vaginosis?

‘Symptoms the CV include discharge, burning, soreness, itching, dysuria and also pain during sex due to acid irritation and also damage to the epithelial cells that line the within of the vagina,’ says Dr Ugwumadu.

‘In women through CV, the quality pH is significantly more acidic. Symptoms tend to it is in worse in the build-up to the period and the majority of females will suffer relief when their durations start. This is due to the fact that menstrual blood is alkaline, i m sorry neutralises the acidity and also decreases lactobacillus levels.’


Unable come concentrate due to the pain, my power at occupational deteriorated. Close to weekly doctor"s appointments supposed that i missed significant amounts that office hours. Codine to be the just thing that noted relief, and also after recognize a prescription-strength stash in mine mum’s room, i quickly came to be addicted. Copy up on sheep throughout the day, I’d fall asleep in ~ my desk.

Underwear and also trousers to be impossible and I resided in skirts nevertheless of the weather. At its worst, i couldn’t walk and also was signed off occupational for 2 weeks. Following a an especially tearful doctor"s appointment, ns was prescribed anti-anxiety medication to help ‘calm me down’. I invested those 2 weeks in bed. What a burden ns was, i thought, to my family, mine friends, the health care system. Ns tried to explain why i couldn’t walk on nights out or to next to my friends, yet they couldn’t really recognize the depth of the problem.

Why is so small known around Cytolytic Vaginosis?

While gaining a diagnosis because that CV is rare, vaginal worries are not. One in three women in the UK will endure from a reproductive or gynaecological health problem, at part point. Also so, a absence of research into these problems has historically been a large issue. And, without research, new understanding and also treatments don"t happen. "Until recently, there has actually been very little research in this area, however that is changing,’ confirms Dr Ugwumadu.

While that might be true, sexiest stereotypes torment the medical care landscape. In one study which highlights the so-called ‘gender pains gap, ’a researcher indigenous the university of Rhode Island found that, post-surgery, women are half as most likely to obtain pain-killers than men, for example. I got to out to women’s health and wellness research charity, Wellbeing of Women, to shed some light on this discrepancy. Lock said:

"Despite affect 51% the the population, women’s reproductive health worries have lengthy been hushed, taboo subjects. Also often, women battle to be taken seriously and get the right details they need for basic health demands to be met.’


"The absence of importance placed on women"s health issues method there has been a woeful lack of invest in research"


"The absence of importance placed on women"s health issues means there has been a woeful absence of investment in research study – 2.1% of every UK windy health funding goes into reproductive health and childbirth – and also these conditions are poorly understood.’

Each encounter with a health treatment professional was the same. I would arrive, having actually mentally prepared myself, and calmly present my symptoms: just how it started, what treatments I had tried, the pain. I’d it is in met with empty stares and also then be subject to an examination.

One of the reasons CV is for this reason arduous come diagnose is since it presents itself like thrush. "The symptom of CV are identical from thrush and most women room treated because that “vaginal thrush” for plenty of years there is no success,’ explains Dr Ugwumadu.

How perform you test for Cytolytic Vaginosis?

Getting a diagnosis chin is complex, and requires microscopic examination of fresh clinical samples, take away via quality swap. ‘This is cumbersome and outside the exercise of most basic gynaecologists,’ states Dr Ugwumadu. ‘Meanwhile, sexual wellness physicians focus on sexuallytransfer infections, which can leave affected women caught in "no man"s land." ’

As I started visiting various healthcare specialists, the possible diagnosis would change. There to be the thrush, again and also again, but additionally vulvodynia – a condition in which there is pain, burning and also discomfort in the vulva that isn"t linked to a certain cause.

After a year of being passed from medical professional to doctor, with no relief from mine chronic pain, I became determined to figure out what to be happening come me. I maintained a diary of all my symptoms, noting down the therapies I tried and prescriptions i was given.


From the moment I gained home indigenous work, I would certainly spend hrs scouring the web for one answer. Scientific journals, articles, forums: any type of information present on Google around chronic quality conditions, i read. With this, I come to believe that I many likely had actually CV. All the symptoms inside wall up. The problem now was finding who who had knowledge that the condition.

How execute you act Cytolytic Vaginosis?

In the end, it was a post I found deep in ~ an digital forum the led me to exclusive specialist Dr Ugwumadu. This, of course, is no a course open up to everyone – I had actually to ask because that the money because that treatment, which ran into the thousands, from my parents.

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Sitting in his office, i sobbed as when he stated he thought me. It to be the first time in end a year that i felt seen and also heard.


"Very few doctors know around cytolytic vaginosis,’ he said. A week later on my results arrived. That told me I had the worst situation of CV he had ever seen, presumably because I"d consumed high sheep of antifungals and probiotics because that so long.

Treatment, although there is no critical cure, connected self-administering a salt bicarbonate solution into the vagina via douche. The goal is to restore pH levels, avoid lactobacillus from multiplying and in turn, avoid the acidic discharge. Together women, we are warned about douching and also advised to prevent it at all prices for fear of displacing the vulnerable vaginal ecosystem.

With CV, the ecosystem is already disrupted and also overpopulated through lactobacillus. It felt unnatural, however it to be the only thing the worked. Dr Ugwumadu also states that, in some difficult to treat cases, a course of an antibiotic might be prescribed, despite this operation the danger of thrush developing.

Do no attempt to self-administer this sort of treatment, there is no being clearly advised to by a gynaecologist

Following a diagnosis, my recovery was excruciatingly long. When I started treatment, I had hoped because that a fast fix, but it was several years prior to I feel ‘better’. The work I had the ability to wear pants again, i sobbed v joy.


To say i am one hundred every cent back to typical would be a lie. Though ns am no longer in pain, following years of recurring trauma, the area is incredibly sensitive and easily irritated. Ns still avoid everything I was advised to: tight leggings, thongs, swimming in chlorinated pools, having rough sex or using scented shower gels.

All mine underwear is wash in fragrance-free detergent and also I have not ridden a cycle in about five years. I live in constant fear of having actually a relapse – and have had actually many. The impact it has on my relationship is undeniable, both physically and psychologically. I struggle to get close come people and intimacy can be an issue. I wish the it were simpler to explain what I’ve been through and what that method for me now.

During mine darkest times, as soon as I had truly shed hope, this article would have been a lifeline. By sharing my story, ns hope that ns can assist someone feel much less alone. If you are dealing this type of chronic pain, I want you to know I think you. You room not "crazy." somebody will help you, and, one day, points will be better.

*Name has actually been changed

What should I do, if I have painful symptoms?

If you space suffering native gynaecological symptoms, the NHS advises the you "contact her GP or to to visit a sex-related health service so that you deserve to be referred for proper diagnostic examinations.
" The RCOG advises that "women with painful symptoms seek a referral to a gynaecologist for this reason a diagnosis and treatment have the right to be explored."

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