One of the main reasons people start an exercise program is to improve their health and reap feel-good benefits of exercise. Unfortunately, while exercise works to create positive change inside, it can cause discomfort on the outside. Sweat, wet bathing suits, friction from workout clothes and changes in your diet and hydration levels create the perfect storm for a number of vaginal maladies. However, a few routine changes usually clear up irritation, also called vulvitis, and prevent it from making a comeback.
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Pain and redness top the list of vaginal irritation symptoms associated with exercise, but you may also experience related symptom. Itching, discharge, unusual odor, swelling or lesions may accompany your soreness. You may only feel pain and irritation during or after a workout, or your symptoms may persists until your tissues heal or you treat an underlying infection that contributes to your irritation.
Your irritation may be caused by something as simple as the wrong exercise clothing. If you run, jog, cycle or take aerobics classes, your clothing may be rubbing against your vulva and irritating sensitive skin. If your clothing traps in moisture, that irritation becomes worse. Moisture also creates prime conditions for a skin or vaginal yeast infection. A vaginal yeast infection comes with changes in vaginal odor, itching, burning and white discharge.
Less Common Causes
Overexercising and undereating can put a strain on your immune system that triggers a herpes outbreak, if you've been exposed to the herpes virus. It that's the case, you'll experience painful red sores that appear wet or weeping. If you've recently shaved or waxed, friction from workout clothes may lead to ingrown hairs. Eczema, obstructed glands or bacterial infections may also case vulvitis.
Prevention and Treatment
To cure irritation caused by chafing and irritation, switch to snug, not tight, athletic clothing designed specifically for the type of activity you do. For example, wear bicycle shorts or athletic tights while cycling or running. Choose garments that indicate on the label that they wick away excess moisture and sweat. Wash your workout clothes between each use. Change out of wet clothes as soon as possible.
Mild irritation needs little more than time to heal. If you're unable to sit out of your routine, try dabbing some petroleum jelly on irritated skin to protect it and reduce chafing during exercise.
If you have a yeast infection, over-the-counter antifungal medications may work, but prescription treatments will likely be more effective. Irritation caused by a herpes outbreak needs time to heal. Prescription viral drugs can shorten the length of your outbreak and prevent future outbreaks. Avoid using harsh soaps or laundry detergents until your irritation goes away.