3 Common Types of Vaginal Infections

From yeast infections to bacterial vaginosis—vaginal infections are so common that most women will experience one or the other during their lifetime.  Vaginal discharge, burning, itching, pain, and a strong odor may be symptoms of either a vaginal infection or vaginitis.

Dr. Gregory R. Moore, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Stamps Health Services of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta quotes that we may never know why some women are more prone to vaginal infections than others.

Vaginal infections can be pesky. You must know the kinds of vaginal infections and what causes them to be aware of your lady part. Different infections require different treatments.

 


Here are 3 Common Types of Vaginal Infections you should know about today.

  1. Yeast infections
  2. Bacterial infections
  3. Trichomoniasis

 1. Yeast Infections

Vaginal yeast infections, often called thrush, can cause burning, itching, or abnormal vaginal discharge. In some women, the external sex organs such as the labia get inflamed too.  Sometimes vaginal yeast infections have no symptoms.

Vaginal yeast infections occur when there is an overgrowth of yeast (a fungus) in the vagina, creating inflammation.

Women often have vaginal yeast infections during certain stages of their lives, such as pregnancy. Taking certain medications and a weak immune system can also increase the risk.

Vaginal yeast infections are often easy to get rid of with creams or suppositories. Occasionally it's a good idea to take tablets.

Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infections

A vaginal yeast infection is a common condition. Women may experience itching and burning sensations, as well as pain.  The vaginal inner lining gets a reddish hue and a white coating.  The symptoms may worsen as your period approaches. You might see redness and swelling in the external area of your vagina as well if the inflammation has spread beyond your labia.

Causes and Risk elements

A vaginal yeast infection is usually caused by a type of yeast called Candida albicans. This fungus is normally found in the vagina, but only in small amounts. You may develop a vaginal yeast infection when there's an overgrowth of it.  The healthy balance of microorganisms (germs) living in the membranes is sometimes disrupted through medication or pregnancy.

The hormonal changes during pregnancy can upset the healthy balance of microbes in the vagina and increase a woman's risk of vaginal yeast infections. Birth control pills also affect hormone levels in a similar way to pregnancy. 

Certain illnesses—such as diabetes and others that weaken the immune system, increase the risk of vaginal yeast infections.  Medications such as steroids,  antibiotics, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy can also increase the risk of infection.

Other risk factors for vaginal infections include wearing sweat-producing tight and synthetics clothes, cleaning your genitals with soap, and using “non-breathable” sanitary pads or panty liners, or stress. 

 Diagnosis and Prevention

Vaginal yeast infections are usually diagnosed by taking a physical description of the symptoms or by swab test on the lining of the vagina. Women with a history of persistent yeast infections or severe symptoms may need additional tests to determine whether they have risk factors such as a weakened immune system.

People with weakened immune systems are sometimes told to take antifungal medications to fight off infections. However, any medicine should be only taken after a doctor’s consultation. 

Maintaining good vaginal hygiene, wearing comfortable pants, and breathable panty liners or pads, when required, are sufficient to prevent vaginal yeast infections in normal situations. 

2. Bacterial Infections

Bacterial vaginosis is a condition that results when bacteria that are normally found in the vagina grow out of control.  Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection in women of reproductive age, and it can affect anywhere from 5 to 70% of women.

Historians have referred to bacterial vaginosis as Gardnerella vaginitis because of the mistaken belief that this one bacteria was the cause of this condition. But that’s not true! Over time—other species were also discovered that were responsible for bacterial infection in the vagina.

Symptoms of Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is characterized by an increased amount of vaginal discharge. The vaginal secretion is usually thin and either white or gray.   

Bacterial vaginosis is often accompanied by a foul-smelling discharge

The effects of this are often amplified after sexual interaction. There may be additional symptoms such as dyspareunia, dysuria, and vaginal pruritus. However, the condition could be asymptomatic in many cases. 

Causes and Risk elements

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by several factors — including medicines and antibiotics, vaginal douching, use of an intrauterine device, cigarette smoking,  and multiple sexual partners

The natural vaginal flora is disturbed in bacterial vaginosis — both through changes in the most common species of bacteria present and an increase in their total number.  

Lactobacilli species make up the majority of the healthy vaginal microbiota. Bacterial vaginosis demonstrates a fall in the overall number of Lactobacilli.

Bacterial vaginosis increases the risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections and may lead to premature labor in pregnancy

Diagnosis and Prevention

Diagnosis: The typical way to diagnose bacterial vaginosis is to examine a vaginal swab from the cervical region. The pH level of the vaginal fluid may be higher than normal.  The whiff test is performed by adding a small amount of potassium hydroxide to the microscopic slide containing vaginal discharge and revealing a characteristic fishy odor.  This test confirms bacterial vaginosis in most cases.

Prevention:  Approximately 30% of cases of bacterial vaginosis will resolve without treatment. This condition can also be treated with either metronidazole or clindamycin.  Both of these medications are effective if taken orally or if applied to the vagina. However, any medication should be only taken after a doctor’s consultation. 

3. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a protozoal sexually transmitted disease (STD). The organism can live for a few hours but virtually all cases are due to venereal transmission of the organism.

Trichomonas vaginalis is a common protozoan infection—causing symptoms such as prostatitis in men and vaginitis in women. The organism lives in the prostate and urethra of men and in the lower genitourinary tract of women.

Trichomoniasis is often underdiagnosed and patients commonly self-treat the infection. The infection continues to spread as the clinicians rarely test the sexual partner in these cases.

Symptoms of Trichomoniasis

A woman with trichomoniasis may experience a foul-smelling green or yellow vaginal discharge. The symptoms may vary to dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), urinary frequency, dysuria (painful or difficult urination), or vulvar pruritus (itchy rash).

Causes and Risk elements 

Trichomonas inhabits the lumen of the urogenital tract. The organism discharges cytotoxic proteins that wipe out the epithelial (outer) lining. Vaginal pH usually rises during this infection. 

Risk factors include:

  • History of STIs
  • Self-injecting recreational drugs
  • Intercourse with an infected partner
  • Multiple partners or New sex partner 
  • Not using a barrier method of contraception

Diagnosis and Prevention

Wet prep microscopy is the most common diagnostic test performed on trichomonads. Trichomonads are motile organisms with flagella and can be seen moving under a microscope. 

This test has been shown to be only 40%-60% effective but is the most widely used method due to its convenience and low cost.

Metronidazole is the most common type of medication prescribed to an infected person. You can read further guidelines by CDC for the treatment overview. However, any medical step should be only taken after a doctor’s consultation. 

 

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