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Most common vaginal infections

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Are you experiencing vaginal pain, itching, or other discomforts? It could be a vaginal infection (also called vaginitis). Vaginal infections are common and can be due to various microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites that can develop in or around the vagina. It could also be due to the irritants of contraceptives (birth control) or soap. You can comfortably treat vaginal infections with the correct medical guidance. If you notice any changes in the intimate area or suspect any vaginal infection, seek medical attention to avoid further complications.

In this article, Dr Aruna Kalra, a leading gynaecologist at CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon, will discuss different types of vaginal infections and their symptoms. She will also cover the treatment options for vaginal infections and how you can prevent vaginal infections.

Common symptoms of vaginal infections

If you experience any of the following symptoms, consult with a gynaecologist near you.

  • Irregular vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal discharge with a strong odour
  • Swelling and irritation of the vagina and the vulva (outer part of the female genitals)
  • Burning sensations while passing urine.
  • Pain in the intimate area
  • Itchiness or soreness in or around your vagina
  • Pain while having sexual intercourse
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Ulcers or warts around the vulva

Common types of vaginal infections

1. Yeast infections

Vaginal yeast infections are the result of the Candida fungus (Candida albicans). Yeast infections occur when Candida fungus penetrate the vaginal lining, causing an inflammatory response. Signs of a yeast infection are irritation, itching, thick white discharge, and swelling around the vulva and the vagina.

Treatment. Because yeast infections are due to a fungus, your doctor will advise you to take oral antifungal medicines or cream over the vagina, depending upon the severity of the yeast infection. It recommends that a pregnant woman should always take advice before taking oral antifungal medicines.

2. Bacterial infections

Some bacterial infections that trigger vaginal infections are:

  • Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an overgrowth of bacteria that are naturally present in the vagina. It is due to the declining number of lactobacilli bacteria in the vagina. If you notice grey or white discharge, burning sensation while urinating, or pain during sexual intercourse, talk to your doctor.

Treatment. A doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis. If you develop recurring bacterial vaginosis, your doctor may treat the condition for a longer time. It is also possible that the doctor can prescribe a second course of antibiotics.

  • Gonorrhea and chlamydia

Bacterial infections, i.e. gonorrhoea and chlamydia, are sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Most women suffering from gonorrhoea and chlamydia bacterial infections do not have any symptoms. They might observe yellow discharge, sometimes bleeding, pelvic pain, and swelling and pain of the labia (part of the female genitalia, also known as ‘vaginal lips’).

Treatment. Usually, people have gonorrhoea and chlamydia at the same time. If this is the case, your doctor will treat it with antibiotics. The doctor also recommends that, as it is a sexually transmitted infection, a person should avoid sexual intercourse until a week after completing the medication course.

3. Viral infections

Viral infections include herpes simplex virus type 2 caused by herpes and the human papillomavirus (HPV) caused by genital warts. These viruses can transmit through sexual intercourse or by skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. If you have genital herpes, you may have symptoms like painful ulcers or sores on your genitals, swelling of lymph nodes, fever, and headaches. If you suffer from genital warts, you may observe symptoms like warts around and inside the vagina and the anus, itching, or discomfort.

Treatment. In genital herpes, the doctor usually suggests antiviral therapy to manage the symptoms. For genital warts, the doctor may recommend surgery or topical solutions for visible warts.

4. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis (trich) is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and occurs due to a protozoan parasite known as Trichomonas vaginalis. People with trichomoniasis can have symptoms like a sore, flushed, or burning genitals, discomfort during urination, and increased volume of vaginal discharge.

Treatment. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat trich.

5. Noninfectious vaginitis

Noninfectious vaginitis is caused due to irritants. Certain things that come in contact with the vagina can cause an allergic reaction. There are many different things that a person can be allergic or sensitive to;

  • Spermicides
  • Sperm fluid
  • Latex condoms
  • Fragrances or cosmetics
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Sanitary pads
  • Other personal care products
  • Close-fitting underclothes and lingerie

Its symptoms include;

  • Swelling and irritation over the genital area
  • Burning sensations on the vulva
  • Flushing of the vagina

Treatment. Your doctor may require a patch test with different substances to determine which one is causing an allergic reaction. The doctor also recommends things that trigger vaginal discomfort as a result of irritants.

Diagnosis of vaginal infection

To diagnose the vaginal infection, you need to make an appointment with your gynaecologist and discuss your symptoms. The doctor may need to take a sample of vaginal discharge to confirm the type of infection you have. The vaginal symptoms and the discharge sample will tell your doctor about the type of infection you have and help to determine the best way to treat the infection.

Prevention of vaginal infection

You can often prevent vaginal infections by making some lifestyle changes. These changes can include:

  • Avoid douching, as douching can kill the bacteria that controls fungus
  • Avoid using feminine deodorants
  • Do not use scented tampons or pads.
  • Change wet clothes, especially swimwear, as soon as possible.
  • Use water-based sexual lubricants
  • Avoid using tight-fitting undergarments

If you have diabetes, it is necessary to keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. Controlling your diabetes can help prevent vaginal infections. 

Outlook

It is important to consult your doctor right away whenever you show any signs or symptoms of vaginal infection. For more information on vaginal infection or any personal enquiry with Dr Aruna Kalra, you can book an appointment or call at +91 124 4882248.

FAQs

Ques: Is it normal to have a lot of discharge every day?

Ans: Some women have vaginal discharge every day, while others experience it less often. Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear or milky and may have a subtle odour that is neither unpleasant nor foul. It’s also important to know that vaginal discharge changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Ques: How to stop vaginal discharge?

Ans: Vaginal discharge is normal, but to prevent vaginal infections that can begin to abnormal discharge, you can follow these tips:

  • Keep the vagina clean.
  • Avoid using scented soaps and feminine products or douche.
  • After urination, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacterial infection.
  • Wear 100% cotton undergarments.

Ques: What causes vaginal discharge?

Ans: Vaginal discharge is a natural and healthy bodily function. It is how the body cleanses and protects the vagina. For example, it is normal for secretion to increase with sexual arousal and ovulation. Exercise, taking birth control pills, and emotional stress can also trigger a discharge.

Ques: Is vaginal discharge a sign of pregnancy?

Ans: Several pregnant women experience vaginal discharge, which is usually not associated with pregnancy. But, most pregnant women discharge sticky, white or pale yellow mucus by the beginning of the first trimester and throughout pregnancy. The increase in hormones and vaginal blood flow leads to vaginal discharge.

Ques: What does color discharge mean?

Ans: Different colours of vaginal discharge indicate different reasons for the health of a woman including;

  • Red or dried brown- irregular menstrual cycle or spotting
  • Cream and milky white- vaginal lubrication
  • Pale yellow to greenish- It is a sign of an infection or might be the food you take. 
  • Deep pink- Some women experience deep pink discharge due to sexual intercourse.
  • Clear discharge- It could be due to ovulation, pregnancy, sexual arousal.

Ques: Can vaginal discharge cause itching?

Ans: Different types of infections can cause itching or abnormal discharge from the vagina. Abnormal discharge means abnormal colour and smell, which is associated with itching or irritation.

Ques: How to stop excess vaginal discharge?

Ans: To stop the excess vaginal discharge, you can do the following things;

  • Keep the vagina clean.
  • Avoid using feminine products and scented soaps or douche.
  • After urination, wipe from front to back to prevent vaginal infection.