Vaginal problems such as vaginitis, inflammations, and infections are actually relativelyr common. Most women happen to experience some of the different types of vaginal infections at least once in their life. The typical symptoms of vaginal infections include itching and pain in that area, often accompanied by vaginal discharge of a strong smell. It’s possible for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to cause gynecological infections, but the reality is that the most common vaginal problems have nothing to do with STDs. In general, some women tend to be more prone to vaginal infections for no apparent reason.
Things That Could Mess Up Regular Vaginal Ecosystem
It’s perfectly normal that there are certain bacteria and even yeast in a healthy vagina that are infection-free. However, when the vaginal ecosystem becomes upset and gets thrown off balance, the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast could end up growing too much, which then triggers vaginal problems. Some of the common things that could cause this to happen include:
- Changes in the hormonal levels
- Sexual intercourse
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Taking antibiotics
It’s true that it’s not always possible to avoid most of the above-mentioned things, except for douching. If it’s not strictly recommended by your gynecologist, douching is completely unnecessary.
The Most Common Types of Vaginal Infections
The most typical vaginal infections include yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis, the last one being caused by STDs.
Yeast infection is actually one of the most common vaginal problems women could experience. It is typically triggered by candida, which is a type of fungus. Small numbers of candida tend to be present in one’s body, vagina included. However, as mentioned, it could happen for candida to overgrow, which can then lead to gynecological infections.
The common conditions that could cause candida to overgrow include menstruation, using birth control pills, and pregnancy, and all the things that could affect normal hormonal levels. Other conditions such as high blood sugar or poor immunity due to HIV could increase the risk of yeast infections as well.
When affected by a yeast infection, women will often experience thicker vaginal discharge. Sometimes, there will also be an itching sensation in the vaginal area together with redness.
Aside from yeast, there are also the so-called friendly bacteria in a healthy vagina, called lactobacilli. In the case when these particular bacteria drop in number, women could be affected by bacterial vaginosis (BV).
It’s not exactly known why these bacterial levels could change, but when lactobacilli lower, they could be replaced in numbers by other bacteria, which actually cause gynecological infections. For instance, the most commonly associated bacteria with BV are called Gardnerella.
As one of the most common vaginal problems, BV is often characterized by symptoms such as abnormal vaginal discharge that’s either thick and whitish or unusually clear and slippery. It’s also possible to experience an almost fishy odor. In the case of BV, burning and itching is unlikely.
When it comes to different types of vaginal infections, another very common one is known as trichomoniasis, and it’s actually caused by STDs. This infection is also often referred to as just trich. The infection occurs when one partner infects the other with the parasite called trichomonas vaginalis as a result of sexual intercourse.
When women suffer from trichomoniasis, they often have symptoms similar to other vaginal infections, such as redness and irritations, burning, fishy smell, swelling of the vulva, and abnormal vaginal discharge of greenish/yellowish color. It’s also possible for some women to feel pain when urinating.
Other Conditions That Could Affect the Vagina
There are a couple of other conditions, both STD-related and unrelated, that could cause vaginal problems.
An STD that could trigger vaginal inflammation is chlamydia. It’s generally recommended that all sexually active women younger than 26 take annual chlamydia tests. Namely, this condition can sometimes be completely asymptomatic, and when left untreated, it can cause fertility issues.
When it shows symptoms, women affected by chlamydia often experience abnormal vaginal discharge. In the case when the infection spreads further from the cervix and vagina, bleeding between periods could also happen.
Another STD that could cause vaginal problems is gonorrhea. It can also be completely asymptomatic or followed by symptoms such as vaginal discharge and/or painful intercourse and urination. It’s not uncommon for women suffering from chlamydia to also suffer from gonorrhea, which is why one positive test would often warrant testing for the other STD.
As the name suggests, noninfectious vaginitis is not an infection per se, but it can cause some vaginal problems due to vaginal sensitivity to certain products such as scented soaps, fabric softeners, or scented tampons. The solution to this problem is to find out what’s causing it and then simply stop using it.
When they reach menopausal age, women could also suffer from atrophic vaginitis. This condition is caused by fluctuating hormonal levels when the vaginal walls turn thinner and lose flexibility.
Vulvodynia is essentially a persistent pain of the vulva, but the cause of this pain is often unknown. Symptoms can be very similar to actual vaginal infections, such as swelling, redness, and irritation, together with burning and soreness.
Vaginal infections could also happen because of a virus, especially one contracted via sexual contact. For instance, the most common trigger of viral vaginosis is the herpes simplex virus. The common symptoms, in this case, are sores and lesions in the genital area as well as pain.
Treatment for Vaginal Infections
All types of vaginal infections can be successfully treated as long as women pay regular visits to their gynecologist and report any issues soon after they appear. The key to effective treatment is to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the infections.
For instance, when they suspect a yeast infection, women can easily get over-the-counter meds to treat it. However, if the meds fail to work, chances are that the infection is triggered by something other than yeast overgrowth. This is when it’s important to get in touch with your doctor. You can always count on Dr. Gostal Arcelin, your provider at Women’s Health Partners.
In order to maintain your gynecological health, it’s crucial to learn how to listen to what your body tells you. Make sure to create a proper self-care routine, protect yourself during sexual intercourse, and choose products that won’t make the sensitive genital area react adversely. Most importantly, schedule regular gynecological appointments; after all, prevention is the best kind of treatment. That said, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Women’s Health Partners for any questions or concerns you might have. We offer a full set of minimally invasive and top-notch services when it comes to treating a range of different gynecological conditions. In order to help you find the best possible course of action for your health and individual needs, we will thoroughly discuss all the available options, from contraception to menopause.