What is Vaginal Infection?
Vaginal infection or vaginitis is a condition in which the vagina gets infected or inflamed. It has numerous causes. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists up to a third of people develop vaginitis at some time in their life.(1) The vaginal infection is most common in the reproductive years of a female’s life i.e. from late teens to early 40s.(2)
Types of Vaginal Infections
The vaginal infection has numerous cause that decides its type. However most of the symptoms of the various types of vaginal infection are the same, but each type does involve a unique symptom.
This type of infection leads to thin, grayish-white, greenish, or yellow discharge. It has a fish-like odor that gets stronger with penetrative sex. There is not much itching in this type of vaginal infection.
Yeast infection involves itching in the vagina and vulva along with soreness and burning. There might be swelling in the labia and the skin folds of the vagina. There may be a discharge that is white and lumpy and resembles cottage cheese.
In this type of infection, there is both vaginal itching and a fish-like odor. The discharge is greenish-yellow and frothy. There might also be swelling, inflammation, and irritation in the vagina and vulva. Also, a person with trichomoniasis may experience pain during vaginal sex, lower abdominal pain, and burning and pain during urination.
This is a condition that increases the chances of vaginal infection and urinary tract infection. There may be symptoms that would resemble infections such as itching, burning, dryness, and changes in discharge.
Symptoms of Vaginal Infections
If someone develops a vaginal infection, the common symptoms noticed are:
- Itching and burning in the vagina
- Soreness and discomfort in the vagina
- Change in the amount of vaginal discharge
- Inflamed, flushed, or swollen skin around the vagina and vulva
- If the vaginal discharge changes color
- Pain and burning in the vagina
- Painful vaginal sex
- Bleeding and spotting
There may be one or a few symptoms from the above. If the symptoms subside in a day or two, there is nothing to worry about. If they stay beyond, it is good to consult a doctor.
Diagnosis of Vaginal Infection
Vaginal infection can be diagnosed by a doctor or a clinician.
At-home vaginal pH test kits are available that can identify yeast or bacterial vaginosis. If someone gets the infection regularly, a medical history is taken by the doctor, and depending on the symptoms pelvic exam is performed.
During the pelvic exam, a swab is obtained from the cervix to test for the sexually transmitted disease. A urine sample is also taken to test for other sexually transmitted diseases.
Treatment of Vaginal Infection
The treatment of the vaginal infection depends on the cause.
Metronidazole or clindamycin creams are prescribed in the case of bacterial infection. Antifungal and suppositories are used in the treatment of yeast infection. In the case of trichomoniasis, metronidazole or tinidazole tablets are recommended. Estrogen creams or tables are given in the case of severe vaginitis and for the irritation associated with atrophic vaginitis. Strong irritants such as perfumed soaps, scented tampons, pads, or douches are asked to be avoided.
How To Prevent Vaginal Infection?
There are a few tips that can be followed in order to prevent the recurrence of vaginal infections.
- Avoid using scented period products, vaginal deodorants, and scented sprays and perfumes around the vagina.
- Take a bath with plain water as scented washes can alter the pH.
- Wear cotton underwear or use the ones with the cotton crotch to prevent the irritation caused by other materials.
- Makes sure to change underwear at least once every day or after exercising.
- Change the damp swimsuit or workout suit as early as possible.
- Switch to unscented detergent, or use the ones designed for sensitive skin.
- Use condoms during sex to prevent the chances of vaginal infection and avoid using flavored ones.
The vaginal infections clear away on their own without treatment. A doctor should be consulted in case of the following conditions:
- The vaginal pH is 4.5(3)
- Symptoms do not improve with over the counter prescriptions
- You believe there has been an exposure to sexually transmitted illness
- There is a yellow and bloody discharge or discharge has a foul odor
- There is vomiting, lower pelvic pain, low back pain, or fever along
- There is difficulty in urination or increase in the frequency
Untreated vaginal infections can cause a lot of discomforts. Proper diagnosis and treatment help recover from them faster.