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7 Types of Vaginal Infections

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The vagina is a delicate, self-cleansing part of all female reproductive organs that may often not function, as it usually does, in some women. There are lot many vaginal problems that a woman can encounter at some point in her life. These could arise due to various reasons like shifts in her menses, having sex with a new male partner, and also from her birth control. Usually, these vaginal issues are associated with symptoms like a strong unpleasant vaginal odor, unusual discharge of the vagina, or a vaginal sensation like itching, burning, or any other discomfort. [1]

It is very common for women to invite vaginal infections and suffer from Vaginitis- a set of conditions that can lead to infection and inflammation of the vagina. Some vaginal infections come as Sexually Transmitted Infections while quite common ones do not. Moreover, some women are more susceptible to vaginal infections than others.

There are plenty of causes behind vaginal infections. Some factors can alter the vaginal environment and allow the overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, thereby causing infection or there could be a sexually transmitted infection like a parasite. This means the vagina needs full-fledged attention to prevent much-dreaded and recurring vaginal infections. To treat these vaginal infections better, the sufferer and the concerned physician/gynecologist must be aware of what type of infection she is having. So, here are 7 common types of vaginal infections that every female must know. [2, 3]

  1. Yeast Infections
    Yeast or fungal infections in females are most commonly seen vaginal infections triggered due to uncontrolled diabetes, menstruation, pregnancy, lower immunity, and the use of oral contraceptives. These infections lead to irritation, cottage cheese-like discharge, an extremely discomforting itching/burning sensation, and sometimes inflammation of the vagina and even the vulva. Candida albicans are the most common yeast species that harmlessly reside in the vagina in small numbers and cause infection when their overgrowth occurs. For some women, yeast vaginal infections could develop when they resume sexual activity following a period of sexual abstinence and even through oral sex.[1, 2, 3]
  2. Bacterial Vaginosis
    Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection caused by a disruption in the vaginal balance of good and bad bacteria. This means the overgrowth of infectious bacteria (mostly Gardnerella) and lowering of levels of beneficial bacteria (like lactobacilli) in the vagina. It is usually because of poor hygiene practices in the genital area like not keeping the vagina clean during menstrual periods and not changing undies often. This condition is associated with vaginal inflammation, fishy odor, the burning sensation felt while urinating, abnormal vaginal discharge (thick or whitish/ slippery or clear), and pain or itching in the vagina. Women who are pregnant, sexually active, or have been using intrauterine devices are more likely to suffer from BV.[1, 2, 3]
  3. Trichomoniasis
    It is a sexually transmitted vaginal infection caused by a parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis. Its symptoms include soreness, redness, and itching or burning sensation and these may vary from one person to another. Some women may also report little discomfort while urinating and a shift in vaginal odor and discharge. However, these can surely be prevented by avoiding its contraction by refraining from sexual intercourse. However, if a woman goes for regular vaginal health check-ups, has good communication with her partner, and even has long-term usage of condoms, there is minimal chance of having trichomoniasis or any other sexually-transmitted infection.[1, 2, 3]
  4. Genital Herpes
    It is a sexually transmitted infection caused by two viruses: Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)-1 and HSV-2. Most women who contract this condition do not experience any symptoms while some might develop herpes sores in their genitals, mouth, or their rectum. The herpetic sores are fluid-filled bumps (painful blisters) that can rupture and ooze fluid to spread infection. [1]
  5. Human Papillomavirus
    It is a sexually transmitted illness that can result in the appearance of warts on the genitals or the skin around the genitals, based on the kind of HPV strain contracted by women. This type of vaginal infection is non-curable and many women can carry this infection without experiencing any symptoms. However, some HPV forms are preventable through vaccination. [1]
  6. Chlamydia
    This is a mostly diagnosed vaginal infection among young women contracted through sexual intercourse. It is an STI caused by a specific bacterial strain called Chlamydia trachomatis. Those who contract Chlamydia mostly don’t experience any symptoms but some may have a burning sensation while peeing and even notice abnormal vaginal discharge. This bacterial infection can even affect the rectum of the affected women and result in rectal discharge, bleeding, and pain. It is contagious as it can easily spread through sex. [1]
  7. Gonorrhea
    It is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhea. It can infect both males and females, most often the urethra, throat, or rectum. In women, it can affect the vagina and even the cervix. The signs and symptoms of gonorrhea in women include painful urination, excessive vaginal discharge, pelvic or abdominal pain, and vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse or between periods. This infection can be treated with antibiotics. However, if the sexually transmitted disease has resulted in permanent damage, antibiotics treatment would not be able to reverse any of these effects. [1]

The Bottom Line

All vaginal infections are treatable with medications (antibiotics or antifungals), but it is crucial to identify the sort of infection or any other illness that a woman has so that she could receive proper treatment. To keep vaginal infections at bay, it is very important to keep caring for the vagina. Females must wear cotton clean underwear, wipe their vagina from front to back after using the washroom, and even follow healthy menstrual hygiene. It is also recommended that they keep their genitals optimally healthy. [2]

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References:

  1. https://www.toplinemd.com/andrew-krinsky-md/10-common-vaginal-diseases-and-are-they-contagious/
  2. https://www.healthshots.com/intimate-health/feminine-hygiene/types-of-vaginal-infections-you-can-get-and-what-can-you-do/
  3. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/vaginal-infection-types/

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