Also referred as vulvovaginitis or vaginal infection, vaginitis is the inflammation of the vagina. It can occur at any time in a woman’s life. The condition can lead to pain, itching, and unusual vaginal discharge, which are mostly accompanied with a vulva infection or irritation. Some women may be asymptomatic (having no vaginitis symptoms at all).
1. Vaginal Candidiasis
A yeast infection is also referred to as candidiasis, a vaginal fungal infection that affects a lot of women. Candida is the fungus that is responsible for yeast infections.
Normally, the fungus found in small quantities in the vagina, mouth, and the digestive tract are usually harmless. However, if the balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina is disrupted, there will be an overgrowth of yeast, leading to vaginitis symptoms. You may experience symptoms like redness, burning, swelling, or itching around the vagina. Usually, the discharge will be whitish and thick that looks like cottage cheese.
Yeast infection is not spread through sexual intercourse. Suppositories and vaginal creams are normally used to treat such infection. The doctor may also prescribe prescription tablets or creams.
is a parasitic infection that is transmitted sexually. Trichomoniasis in women can result in an unpleasant smell of vaginal discharge, pain during urination, and genital itching. However, men who get the disease will have no symptoms. If you are pregnant and have trichomoniasis, you have an increased risk of having a premature delivery.
3. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
BV is a mild bacterial infection that affects the vagina. In the vagina, there are many beneficial bacteria as well as a number of harmful bacteria. The beneficial bacteria regulate the growth of the harmful bacteria. If you have bacterial vaginosis, it means that the balance has been disrupted. The harmful bacteria outweigh the beneficial bacteria.
Normally, bacterial vaginosis clears on its own after several days. However, it can result to other health problems if not diagnosed properly. Therefore, it is recommended that you go visit your doctor to receive proper treatment.
Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis
What exactly causes the imbalance in the vagina is still unclear, although some factors may contribute to this imbalance. You have an increased risk for bacterial vaginosis if you do the following:
- having multiple sex partners
- recent change of a sex partner
To prevent bacterial vaginosis, avoid smoking, douching, and do not have multiple sex partners. Using a latex condom during sexual intercourse is one of the best measures to prevent vaginitis.
Women who are sexually active are mostly affected by bacterial vaginosis, although women who have never had sex may get the condition too.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
The leading symptom of BV is a smelly vaginal discharge. It may appear yellowish or grayish white. An unpleasant smell is a sign of bacterial vaginosis, which may worsen after sex. Approximately half of women with bacterial vaginosis do not experience any vaginitis symptoms.
An abnormal vaginal discharge may be caused by other diseases such as STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Consult your doctor to receive an appropriate treatment.
Your doctor will diagnose bacterial vaginosis by performing a pelvic exam, inquiring about your symptoms, and taking a vaginal discharge sample.
Problems Resulting from Bacterial Vaginosis
Normally, bacterial vaginosis does not lead to other health disorders, although sometimes, it can result in other health problems. It raises the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women, causes preterm birth, and a uterine infection after delivery.
You are more prone to developing a pelvic infection if you have bacterial vaginosis or have undergone a pelvic procedure like abortion, cesarean section (C-section), or hysterectomy.
Who is at risk of having bacterial vaginosis?
It is estimated that 1 in every 3 women will have bacterial vaginosis at some point in their lives. You have higher chances of developing bacterial vaginosis if you:
- frequently bathe in a bubble bath
- sexually active (although sexually inactive women can have it too)
- a smoker
- uses a copper coil for contraception
- changed your sex partner recently
- have a history of STIs
- have an Afro-Caribbean descent
You have a decreased risk of getting bacterial vaginosis if you:
- use condoms
- use the “combined oral contraceptive (COC) pill”
- your partner is circumcised
Is bacterial vaginosis a disease that is transmitted sexually?
Any woman can develop bacterial vaginosis so it is not sexually transmitted. However, it is more frequent in women who are sexually active compared to women who are sexually inactive. No treatment is required for sexual partners of those women with bacterial vaginosis. You may, however, develop this condition after changing a sex partner. The reason is that changing a sex partner disrupts the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Possible Complications of Bacterial Vaginosis
1. Pregnant women
Bacterial vaginosis that goes untreated during pregnancy puts you at risk for pregnancy complications such as:
- early labor
- preterm birth
- low birth weight (LBW) of a newborn
- postpartum endometritis (womb infection after delivery)
2. Surgery and bacterial vaginosis
If your bacterial vaginosis is not treated, you have an increased risk of getting a uterus infection after undergoing operations such as abortion or a vaginal hysterectomy.
3. Other infections
If your bacterial vaginosis is not treated, you will be more prone to getting an HIV infection if your sexual partner is HIV-positive. You also have a higher chance of transmitting HIV if you have bacterial vaginosis and HIV at the same time. According to research, women will also have a higher chance of getting a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if their bacterial vaginosis is not treated properly.
Is it normal to have a vaginal discharge?
Normally, the vagina secretes a clear or a cloudish discharge that does not irritate the vagina and has a very minimal odor. The consistency and quantity of the vaginal discharge change during a regular menstrual cycle. You may experience a small quantity of discharge that is watery and very thin at some point in your menstrual cycle. Sometimes, you may have a vaginal discharge that is thicker. These types of vaginal discharge are normal.
An abnormal vaginal discharge causes irritation and has a foul odor. The irritating feeling may either be burning or itching. The burning feeling could seem like a bladder infection. Mostly, the itching will be more severe during the night, although it may occur at any time of the day. Having sexual intercourse mostly worsens these symptoms. If you suspect any abnormalities in your vaginal discharge, consult your doctor.
Treatment of Vaginitis
The right diagnosis is important in the proper treatment of vaginitis. Since different types of vaginitis can have similar symptoms, treatment might not be easy. It will be of great help to your doctor if you carefully monitor your symptoms, the time when they happen, the quantity and consistency of your vaginal discharge, as well as its color. Douching is never recommended. You may also be requested to abstain from having sexual intercourse for 24 hours prior to your doctor’s visit.
Treatment should be given according to the type of vaginitis. If a diagnosis confirms that you have a yeast infection, your doctor will prescribe you an antifungal oral medication, vaginal cream, or vaginal suppositories. If the infection goes away for a while and then you experience the same symptoms again, your doctor can prescribe a specific vaginal suppository or a vaginal cream that will completely heal the infection.