Vaginal infections are common and millions of women suffer from different types of vaginal inflammation which can disturb daily life by triggering vaginal itching, burning sensation in vagina, vaginal smell (foul, fishy), vaginal discharge, vaginal sore, etc. Women get vaginal infection if bacteria, fungi or viruses grow in and around vagina. Some types of bacteria exist in healthy vagina in certain concentration (creating normal vaginal environment) but other types of bacteria, viruses and fungi shouldn’t be in vagina and their appearance always create bacterial imbalance and vaginal problems.
In general, vaginal inflammation called “vaginitis” which can be caused by sexually transmitted infections, imbalance of vaginal bacterial environment, allergic factors (soaps, sprays, synthetic underwear, etc.) or hormonal deficiency. Some women seem to be more prone to vaginal infections than others for reasons that are not known and entirely obvious. In all cases unprotected sexual contacts and multiple partners can increase risks for vaginal infections.
Vaginal infections – common symptoms
Vaginal infections could have very similar symptoms:
Appearance and combination of above mentioned symptoms can help to identify vaginal infection.
Vaginal infections – risk factors
In general, the acidic vaginal environment (maintained by large numbers of lactobacillus bacteria) is the key factor in preventing infections. Any factor that decreases number of lactobacillus bacteria can affect vaginal pH (acidity). Risk factors for vaginal infections include the following:
Unprotected sexual contacts with infected persons;
Poor intimate hygiene or regular vaginal douching;
Long-term antibiotic therapy;
Menstrual period (menstrual blood in vagina);
Hormonal combined contraception (birth control pills);
Pregnancy with increased levels of female hormones;
Sugar addiction, obesity or poor not healthy diet;
Weakened immune system (HIV/AIDS, diabetes, malnutrition, stress).
Vaginal infections – top 5 infections
Following vaginal infections can be considered as most common:
Although above mentioned vaginal infections could have different symptoms, some symptoms can be very similar and diagnosis can be tricky even for experienced doctor. Correct diagnosis is crucial because treatment strategy can be very different.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial vaginosis (nonspecific vaginitis) is caused by imbalance of vaginal bacteria which trigger overgrowth of certain microbes (mainly Gardnerella vaginalis). BV typical symptoms include:
Excessive vaginal discharge cloudy, bloody, yellow, white-grey, grayish or green – tends to be heaviest just after menstrual period or after sex;
Specific fishy vaginal smell (more noticeable during sex);
Vaginal burning sensation or burning during urination;
Vaginal pain (rare);
Vaginal itching (rare).
Vaginal yeast infection
Vaginal yeast infection is caused by fungus Candida albicans. In general, yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of normally growing vaginal fungi. Typical symptoms include the following:
Disturbing vaginal itching,
Thick white odorless vaginal discharge (cottage cheese discharge) or increased watery vaginal discharge,
Vaginal burning sensation,
Vaginal irritation and inflammation,
Vaginal sore and swelling,
Burning during urination and sexual contacts.
Chlamydia is common sexually transmitted infection caused by bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. About 75% women with Chlamydia have no symptoms. Typical symptoms include the following:
Cloudy yellow vaginal discharge (mucus or pus);
Unusual vaginal smell;
Frequent urination, burning sensation or pain during urination;
Abdominal and/or low back pain;
Vaginal bleeding or brown discharge between periods and after sexual contacts;
Nausea, fever, fatigue.
Trichomoniasis is common sexually transmitted infection caused by Trichomonas vaginalis. This infection often affects young sexually active women. Typical symptoms include the following:
Greenish yellow, frothy vaginal discharge;
Fishy smelling vagina;
Vaginal irritation, soreness and discomfort;
Typical inflamed cervix (so called “Strawberry cervix”);
Frequent urination, pain or burning sensation during urination;
Vaginal itching (not always);
Lower abdominal pain (rare).
Gonorrhea is common sexually transmitted disease caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This bacteria can grow and multiply easily in any warm, moist areas of reproductive tract (including vagina, cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes and urethra). Unfortunately gonorrhea symptoms in women often go unnoticed. Special attention should be paid to following symptoms:
Increased yellowish vaginal discharge (pus);
Vaginal itching or burning sensation;
Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods and after sexual contacts;
Frequent urination with pain or burning;
Vaginal irritation or swelling.
Vaginal infections – treatment
All mentioned vaginal infections can be treated but it should be done as soon as possible. Not treated cases could cause several dangerous health conditions such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID) and urinary tract infections (UTI).
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Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to consult your doctor for professional advice. Above mentioned information and recommendations are just general and should be adapted to each person according to personal health indicators and status.