Are you experiencing vaginal soreness, itching, or other discomfort? It could be a sign of vaginal infection.
A vaginal infection, also known as vaginitis, can make the vagina uncomfortable or change the smell and appearance of discharge. These symptoms can be brought on by medication, contraception, sexual activity, and other factors.
Bacteria, fungi, or irritants from soap or birth control frequently bring on infections. If you have vaginal discomfort, it might be tempting to self-diagnose, but vaginitis isn’t always curable with over-the-counter medications. [1, 3, 4]
What is a Vaginal Infection (Vaginitis)?
Infection or inflammation of the vagina is known as vaginitis. It can be caused by a number of different organisms like bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses that live in and around the vagina and vulva. These organisms typically dwell in the vagina without causing any injury. However, unchecked growth is possible if the vagina’s normal, healthy settings are disrupted.
These infections have several causes and are fairly common during reproductive years or late teens to early 40s.
Vaginitis is not a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), but sexual activity may contribute. Soap, bubble baths, personal hygiene products, detergents, and fabric conditioners can irritate the sensitive skin surrounding your vulva and vagina skin. It can create symptoms such as itching, but it can also induce an infection. Other vaginal infections are sexually transmitted (STIs); therefore, you can get them from unprotected sexual contact. [1, 2, 3, 5]
Types of Vaginal Infections
In basic terms, vaginal infections occur when bacteria and yeast in your vagina are out of equilibrium due to certain factors.
The next sections discuss common vaginal infection causes, symptoms, and treatments.
1. Bacterial Infections:
Overgrowth of vaginal bacteria causes Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). Sexual contact, including hand-to-genital, oral, and penetrating vaginal sex, can lead to bacteria overgrowth and raise bacterial vaginosis risk.
Bacterial Infections Symptoms
Although not everyone infected with bacterial vaginosis will show symptoms, those who do may suffer the following:
- Thin gray or white, fishy-smelling vagina discharge
- A burning sensation while urinating
- Pain during sexual activity
Bacterial Infections Treatment: Bacterial vaginosis can clear up by itself, but it may return. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic tablets, gel, or lotion for treatment. [1, 3, 4, 5]
2. Yeast Infections:
Fungus called “Candida albicans” causes yeast infections. Antibiotics, hormonal changes, a weak immune system, and stress can impact vaginal antifungal microorganisms, leading to yeast overgrowth and causing yeast infections.
Yeast Infections Symptoms
Some symptoms of a yeast infection include:
- Irritation, itching, swelling, and burning in and around the vagina
- Increased vaginal discharge, thick and white.
Yeast Infections Treatment: Antifungal drugs can cure yeast infections. Antifungal tablets or vaginal creams can be used for the treatment. [1, 3, 4, 5]
The protozoan parasite called “Trichomonas vaginalis” is responsible for the highly prevalent sexually transmitted infection known as Trichomoniasis or trich.
70% of people have no symptoms. Some people get symptoms in 5–28 days, while others take longer.
- Soreness and itching around the vulva
- Increase in discharge volume
- A change in discharge color; yellow or white
- Pain during urination
- Foul-smelling and possibly frothy vaginal discharge.
Trichomoniasis Treatment: A person can take prescribed antibiotics to treat Trichomonas vaginalis. [1, 3, 4, 5]
Most commonly reported STI, caused by a type of bacteria. Chlamydia rarely causes symptoms. But if you do, you may notice a few symptoms, as mentioned.
- White, green, or yellow discharge
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Bleeding between your periods or after sex
- Burning sensation during urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse and urination.
Chlamydia Treatment: If so, doctors will prescribe antibiotics. It’s recommended not to have intercourse for at least a week after the treatment. [1, 3, 4, 5]
Bacteria-caused STI. It can cause infertility and severe pelvic pain if left untreated. If you get sick, symptoms usually develop within ten days.
- Green, white, or yellow vaginal discharge
- Severe pelvic pain
- Swelling and pain in the labia
- Increased vaginal discharge than normal
- Pain around your lower abdomen causing discomfort during urination
- May get bleeding between periods.
Gonorrhea Treatment: Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics. It’s recommended not to have intercourse for at least a week after the treatment. [1, 3, 4, 5]
6. Genital Herpes:
It’s caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) and commonly spreads through sexual contact.
Genital Herpes Symptoms
- Pain while urinating
- Fever and headaches
- Soreness on genitals
Genital Herpes Treatment: Consult your doctor for advice on relieving discomfort and speeding the healing process of blisters by washing the affected area with plain or salt water and using petroleum jelly or mild anesthetic gel. A person without symptoms is nonetheless infectious. Antiviral medication can help manage herpes symptoms. [1, 3, 4, 5]
7. Genital Warts:
Commonly spread through sexual contact and caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Genital Warts Symptoms:
- Itching or discomfort and bleeding
- Small growths on or around genitals.
Genital Warts Treatment: Genital warts have no cure, like herpes. Doctors can eliminate noticeable warts through surgery or topical solutions that people can apply themselves. [1, 3, 4, 5]
Even if a vaginal infection is treated, the patient may develop PID or postpartum endometriosis. PID causes inflammation in the womb, ovary, and tube, whereas the uterine lining grows outside the uterus in postpartum endometritis. ‘These infections can also influence pregnancy by causing complications’, says the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The Bottom Line
Yeast, bacteria, viruses, and irritants are possible causes of vaginal infections. They may cause discomfort and limit a person’s ability to engage in everyday activities. Suppose a person feels any signs of an infection, detects a change in the vaginal discharge, or has a sexual partner with an STI. In that case, it is crucial to visit a doctor as a doctor will be better able to help you discover a treatment and avoid more infections.
Home remedies can sometimes help vaginal infections heal, but you can’t always treat a vaginal infection at home. In addition, prescribed antibiotics or antifungal drugs are necessary for some infections.
While vaginal infections can be uncomfortable, they normally aren’t life-threatening until left untreated. In most cases, rapid recovery occurs after a proper diagnosis. [1, 5]
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