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Most common vaginal infections

Most common vaginal infections and their types featured image
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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. Bacterial vaginosis: In this case, there is an overgrowth of the bacteria that is naturally found in your vagina. This leads to a natural imbalance.
    • This is more common in women of reproductive age who are not undergoing menopause.
    • This can also be caused by a combination of several good bacteria that live in your vagina.
    • The bacteria tend to multiply only when the vaginal pH balance is upset.
    • This variant is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but is common in sexually active people with multiple sexual partners.
  2. Yeast infections: These are also a type of vaginitis and the most common form. Here the main cause is Candida albicans, a fungal infection. Candida fungi normally live in the vagina, mouth and digestive tract in all men and women.
    • This is the most frequently recorded variant of vaginitis.
    • The infection happens when the normal levels of candida increase abnormally and cause irritations.
    • It can also be the reaction of an antibiotic to treat a urinary tract infection, which destroys the good bacteria that maintain yeast balance.
    • Hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to yeast infections.
    • Diabetes leads to increased sugar levels in your urine and vagina, causing the pH imbalance for infection.
  3. Sexually Transmitted Vaginitis: These are caused by sexually transmitted parasites. There are three STI Vaginitis variants:
    • Chlamydia or gonorrhoea: Chlamydia is a common STI which is common in young adults aged 15 to 24 years of age bracket, who have more than one sexual partner. Routine screening is recommended for sexually active women in the above age bracket as they are at a greater risk. These are treated with antibiotic medications, but it is better to practise safe sex to prevent this from happening. Gonorrhoea, on the other hand, often occurs with chlamydia. The risk lies with both partners, because if this goes unnoticed, then there are chances that more people will get it.
    • Viral vaginitis (herpes): STI-related vaginitis that leads to inflammation of your genitals is viral vaginitis. The most common variant is the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It spreads through sexual contact and leads to painful sores. Stress or emotional distress flares up the condition.
    • Trichomoniasis: This is caused by a protozoan, which infects the vagina and causes vaginal itching and a smelly discharge. It is transmitted through sexual intercourse, including vulva-to-vulva contact. For effective treatment, both partners must be treated simultaneously.
    • Non-infectious vaginitis: Sometimes allergic reactions can cause vaginal irritation without an infection. Such as reaction or irritation from vaginal sprays, douches or spermicidal products. The skin around your vagina is sensitive to perfumed soaps, feminine products and wipes, lotions & sexual lubricants. This can also be due to improper hygiene due to residues of detergents and fabric softeners.
    • Atrophic vaginitis: Genitourinary syndrome of menopause and vulvovaginal atrophy, is a non-infectious variant of vaginitis due to hormonal imbalance caused by the drop of oestrogen. The vagina goes dry mainly during perimenopause and postmenopause. Breastfeeding and postpartum stress can also contribute to atrophy.

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.

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