Most Common Vaginal Infections
With the rising conversation about women’s sexual health, a lot of focus of late has been placed on vaginal hygiene as well. Vaginal health is a vital part of healthcare as it is where some of the deadliest transmittable diseases find an ideal breeding place. Sometimes the problems are mostly limited to itching and some amount of manageable discomfort. But other times it can be the stepping stone for a bigger, more difficult-to-deal condition. Vaginitis falls under this category. To know more about this condition and its types, read on…
What is Vaginitis?
Vaginitis is a medical condition that affects a female’s vagina. It is an inflammation that occurs in the vagina which leads to frequent discharge, vaginal itching and sometimes pain. This happens when there is an unusual change in the pH balance or an infection in the vaginal region, which is home to good bacteria that keep the vagina clean. For post-menopausal women, reduced oestrogen levels or some kind of skin disorder can also cause vaginitis.
There are different types of vaginitis that can happen to women. These are:
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.
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.
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.
Therefore, vaginitis is an umbrella term that describes various disorders that are linked to infection or inflammation in the female vagina. Meanwhile, vulvovaginitis is the condition where there is an inflammation in the external female genitalia that includes both the vagina and vulva.
What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Vaginitis?
The cause of vaginitis will purely depend on the type of vaginitis you have. But when you assess all the variants of vaginitis, the following will be the primary factors that you may want to consider:
- Hormonal changes or imbalances, usually associated with pregnancy, birth control or menopause
- Sexual activity that involves unsafe sex or sex with multiple partners, especially in women
- Getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which leads to genital warts or other problems
- The usage of medications, such as antibiotics and steroids can trigger vaginitis due to the above-mentioned causes.
- Uncontrolled diabetes increases the potential risk of getting vaginitis
- Douching and using hygiene products like vaginal spray or vaginal deodorant
- Wearing damp and restricted clothes
The significant symptoms of Vaginitis are:
- Change in colour, odour or amount of discharge. Bacterial vaginosis gives a greyish-white discharge with a foul odour. Yeast infection will give a thick white cheesy discharge. Trichomoniasis will give a greenish-yellow or froth-like discharge.
- Vaginal itching or irritation and pain during sex
- Painful urination and light vaginal bleeding in some cases
To summarise, the causes & symptoms of Vaginitis
|Major Causes of Vaginitis||Main Symptoms of Vaginitis|
|1. Hormonal disbalance due to pregnancy, birth control or menopause||1. Change in colour, odour or amount of vaginal discharge.|
|2. Unsafe sex and STIs or warts due to this||2. Vaginal itching or irritation|
|3. Steroid medication||3. Painful intercourse|
|4. Uncontrolled diabetes||4. Painful urination|
|5. Using too many vaginal hygiene products or damp clothing||5. Vaginal bleeding|
How to Treat Vaginitis?
The real question is to determine when you need help. The simple answer is whenever you experience vaginal discomfort accompanied by symptoms like:
- Unpleasant vaginal odour and discharge with itching.
- You’ve recently been sexually active with multiple partners and your symptoms are like a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
- You’ve completed a course of antibiotics for a UTI or anti-yeast medication for your vaginal discomfort and your symptoms persist.
- When you get a fever, chills or pelvic pain.
You Can Also Read: Chlamydia: The Silent STI you didn’t even know about
How to Prevent Vaginitis?
Good hygiene is the best option to prevent vaginitis and relieve symptoms. Follow these alerts and you might just steer clear of these infections:
- Avoid public baths, hot tubs etc.
- Avoid irritants like tampons, pads, douches and scented soaps. It is advisable to rinse the area better and avoid harsh soaps so that the irritation subsides
- Always wipe from front to back of the vagina after using it to avoid the spread of faecal bacteria to your vagina.
- Avoid douching, your vagina has a self-cleaning mechanism and it does not need any further cleansing after a shower. Douching repetitively ruins the good bacteria that maintain the pH of your vagina.
- Have safe sex and always use protection with all your partners.
- Wear clean and dry cotton underwear to bed as yeast thrives in moist environments.
When Should You See Your Doctor?
While the matter at hand is sensitive, this is one condition where you have to come clean with your Gynaecologist. Make sure you mention these explicitly when consulting your physician. Any or all of these can be a sure-shot indicator for your doctor to take the right course of treatment.
Unpleasant Vaginal Odour
Vaginal Discharge With Itching
1. Sexual Partner with STI
1. Recurrence of old infection
2. Sudden fever or chills
2. Pain in the pelvic region
3. Vaginal irritation during sex
3. Painful urination or bleeding
The CK Birla Hospital provides a judgement-free comfort zone for patients to talk freely about their concerns. With compassionate care at its core, our doctors prioritise patient’s comfort and well-being above everything else. To book an appointment with our sexual health expert.
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. However, 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 Colour 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, or 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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