Vaginitis or vaginal infection is most commonly caused by Candida albicans. Each woman is likely to get vaginal infection at some point even they are not sexually active. When the vagina gets inflamed, it can cause considerable pain with itchy discharge. Any change in the levels of good bacteria can cause vaginitis. Some kind of skin problems and decreased levels of estrogen hormone can contribute for vaginal swelling.
Healthy vagina always has some bacteria (good ones) and yeast. Problem occurs when the balance of bacteria/yeast get disturbed. Overgrowth of yeast cells can cause vaginitis leading to symptoms like itching, irritation and vaginal swelling. Vaginitis can be treated by antibiotics (bacterial infection) and antifungal creams and suppositories.
Symptoms Of Vaginitis :
Some of the common signs of vaginitis are :
- Itchy feeling on the vagina
- Foul smelling discharge from the vagina
- Pain while passing urine and pain while having sex
- Light bloody discharge from the vagina
- Whitish milky fluid like discharge from the vagina can occur due to Candida infection
- Grey colored discharge with foul smell can be due to bacterial infection
- In rare cases greenish yellow colored discharge can occur with froth due to Trichomoniasis
- In severe cases some women may develop fever or chills
Read More On Yeast Infection
Vaginitis Causes :
Major cause for vaginitis is inflammation of vagina when the bad bacteria are more than the volumes of good bacteria. This can happen due to illness and weakened immunity. Under normal condition, lactobacilli (good bacteria) live in your vagina. However during infection bad bacteria by name anaerobes increases in number destroying more volumes of good bacteria leading to vaginal inflammation. Normal balance of the vagina is disturbed due to increased bad bacteria and this often happens while having sex with multiple partners. Bad bacteria get transmitted into the vagina through sexual intercourse and affects largely women who are sexually active.
1. Candidiasis – Vaginal inflammation and infection commonly occurs due to yeast overgrowth. This is a type of yeast by name C. albicans which normally live in controlled number in the vagina. However, when situations are favorable yeast multiplies in number causing overgrowth leading to swelling of vagina and itching. This is the same parasite that causes oral thrush and itchy sensation in the skin folds like armpits. The same yeast is responsible for causing diaper rash in babies.
2. Trichomoniasis – Trichomonas vaginalis is responsible for causing this infection and it gets transmitted through sex. Having sexual intercourse with affected men/women can easily transfer the parasites to involved person.
Other Causes Of Vaginitis :
- Vaginitis can also occur by frequently using/changing vaginal sprays and perfumed soaps etc. Douching is yet another important cause for disturbing the balance of bacteria.
- Women who do not change their wet tampons during periods frequently are at increased risk for vaginal infection.
- Using sex objects or toys can cause allergic reaction leading to irritation of soft vaginal tissues.
- Lastly, reduction in the level of hormone estrogen can trigger vaginal irritation causing inflammation and infection. For some women vaginal infection can occur after removal of ovaries surgically.
Who Are At Risk ?
The following factors increase the risk of vaginitis :
- Having sex with unknown persons
- Being sexually active most of the time
- Change in hormonal balance
- Taking strong antibiotics and medications like steroids
- Using intrauterine device for postponing pregnancy
- Women who are using catheter for passing urine
If left untreated vaginal infection occurring through sex transmission can cause STD diseases like gonorrhea, chalmydia, HIV or AIDS, genital herpes and syphilis infection. Increased growth of bacteria is the primary cause of STD.
If you have any of the symptoms given above, you can check with your doctor promptly. In case you have had sex with stranger you can perform a pelvic exam with your gynecologist.
Testing for vaginal infection involves collecting sample of vaginal discharge and testing it in the laboratory for overgrowth of bacteria and other parasites. pH testing can also be done using pH paper or stick.
Treatment is based on the root cause of the problem and results of diagnosis. For bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics like clindamycin or metronidazole pills. You need to complete the course of medications as prescribed. Cleocin cream is effective for reducing vaginal swelling.
Yeast infection is treated with antifungal ointments and oral pills like clotrimazole, fluconazole (Diflucan), or Vagistat-1. For moderate symptoms you can take OTC antifungal pills to check if the symptoms are improving. For vaginal atrophy and reduced estrogen secretion, estrogen supplement is prescribed in the form of vaginal rings or creams.
Vaginitis Prevention :
- Follow good hygiene of private parts
- Don’t share personal products and clothing with others
- Avoid using perfumed sprays and scented soaps and strong detergents
- Avoid having sex with unknown persons
- Avoid wearing nylon undergarments and tight jeans
- Include yogurt in your daily diet