Vaginitis is a common infection that causes irritation to the vulva or vagina. Almost all women develop vaginitis at some point in their lives. At times, the infection occurs as a result of a yeast infection, among other triggers. Mostly, vaginitis and yeast infections occur more than one time in a woman’s lifetime. Normally, vaginitis isn’t severe, but it is irritating and causes discomfort.
- Candida vaginal infections (vaginal yeast infections). These infections usually occur as a result of Candida albicans fungus. Most women develop at least one of these infections in their lives. Unhealthy diet, stress, pregnancy, the use of antibiotic drugs or contraceptive pills, and regular douching usually make women more prone to vaginal yeast infections. Diabetic or HIV-positive individuals have higher chances of developing yeast infections many times in their lives.
- Trichomonas vaginitis (trichomoniasis). This is an infection that is transmitted through sexual intercourse and develops as a result of Trichomonas vaginalis. The infection makes the vagina, urethra, and the cervix inflamed. Trichomoniasis makes the membranes of pregnant women vulnerable to untimely rupture, which consequently causes a high risk of premature birth.
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV can be difficult to differentiate from other infections that usually affect the vagina. It occurs as a result of vaginal bacterial imbalance. Approximately a third of all women get BV at least once in their lifetime.
The infection makes the vagina produce a fishy-smelling discharge, which is grayish in color. About 50% of females with BV don’t experience any symptoms as a result of the infection.
Causes of bacterial vaginosis
The vagina has both "good" bacteria, which protect one from having infections and “bad” bacteria, which possibly trigger an infection.
When one has BV, the number of the “bad” bacteria becomes higher than that of the “good” bacteria. This causes the vagina’s interior to become inflamed, leading to the fish-like smelling discharge.
The cause of the imbalance is yet to be established. Although BV isn’t considered an STI, one can have it after having sexual intercourse with a new person.
There isn’t a confirmed case where a woman with BV transmits any infection to a man with whom she engages in a sexual act. However, this may be different females who have sex with fellow women.
Other factors that can lead to vaginosis include:
- The of use perfumed soaps or bubble baths
- intrauterine devices (IUD)
- vaginal deodorant
What are the symptoms of Vaginitis?
- The vagina becomes painful or itchy
- A highly viscous vaginal discharge which resembles cheese
- Burning sensation in the entrance of the vagina, usually when passing urine
- Pain or discomfort while having sex
A woman with Trichomonas may live for many years with the infection without experiencing any symptoms. However, the possible symptoms are:
- A yellowish or greenish discharge with a bad odor coming out of the vagina
- Painful or itch vagina
- Vaginal opening becomes inflamed or uncomfortable
- Lower abdominal discomfort
- Pain in the vagina while having sex
- Burning sensation while passing urine
The menstrual period may make the symptoms more severe.
Abnormal vaginal discharge is the major BV symptom. The discharge may:
- Become light and watery
- Become whitish or grayish
- Have an intense, bad, fishy odor, especially after having sex
Other BV symptoms may consist of:
- pain while having sex
- pain while urinating
- slight vaginal bleeding
Normally, BV doesn’t lead to itching or irritation.
Asymptomatic BV (causing no symptoms) doesn’t require treatment, since it doesn't pose any danger to health or pregnancy.
Seek immediate doctor’s attention if your vagina produces an unusual discharge.
BV diagnosis is vital to confirm the absence of other infections, such as Trichomonas vaginalis or gonorrhea, whose symptoms also include unusual vaginal discharge. A sexual health clinic is better than your regular doctor when it comes to a BV diagnosis.
After inquiring about your symptoms, your physician or a professional in a sexual health clinic may assess your vagina. Specifically, they check for the presence of:
- a light discharge with grayish color
- a bad odor
Further tests may be required if there’s a possibility of you having an STI rather than having BV.
A plastic loop or swab may be used to take samples of vaginal cells and discharge.
The sample extraction takes a couple of seconds, and it’s normally painless, but a slight discomfort can be felt for a short time. It only takes a few seconds.
An examination is done on the samples to find out if BV is present. A patient may get the result immediately or within a week.
The vaginal pH may be tested, as well. A swab is inserted into the vagina, removed, and then wiped over a piece of pH-testing paper. The color of paper will change according to the pH level. BV is possibly present if the pH level exceeds 4.5.
Flagyl or Metro-Gel can be used to treat BV in females who aren’t expecting children. Clindamycin (Cleocin) can also be used for treating the infection. However, pregnant mothers may be treated differently, since these medications may affect a developing fetus.
Anti-fungal drugs (pills, creams, ointments, or suppositories) can be used for treating Candida vaginitis by applying them directly into the vagina.
Oral Metronidazole is an effective treatment of Trichomonas vaginal infections. People having sex with an individual with these infections must also be treated to avoid reinfection.
Metronidazole can lead to nausea, throwing up, and your mouth may taste a bit metallic. Take it after a meal. Seek your physician’s attention in case you throw up, since the treatment won’t be successful.
Refrain from drinking alcohol when taking Metronidazole, as well as two days after an antibiotic medication course, since alcohol worsens the side effects.
Tinidazole is a substitute of Metronidazole, in case you are intolerant with the latter.
Consult your doctor immediately if you:
- Feel pain in your lower belly pain and have a fever exceeding 101°F together with a vaginal discharge.
- Are expecting a baby and experiencing vaginal infection symptoms
Seek an appointment with your doctors within seven days if:
- you notice a discharge with abnormal or bad odor from your vagina
- your vagina is itchy
- you feel pain while having sex or passing urine
- you have any other vaginal infection symptom
Seek professional medical assistance if you have abnormal symptoms involving your vagina.
If you have an STI and you don't receive timely treatment, chances are high that you will infect your partner. Additionally, you may have more severe problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease. Here are a few precautions you can take:
- Abstain from sex until you are treated to avoid the transmission of a probable infection.
- Don’t douche.
Who should I see?
A family medicine doctor, gynecologist, nurse, internist, or physician assistant can diagnose and treat BV.
What happens after treatment?
Another BV test after completing your medication course isn’t necessary if you don’t have the BV symptoms anymore. A BV retesting after treatment will be required if:
- You still have the infection and its symptoms
- The signs and symptoms recur
- You are receiving BV treatment while pregnant
Vaginitis can be easily diagnosed and treated by various medical personnel, including a general practitioner or gynecologist.