The A – Z Of Vaginal Infection

By Medically reviewed by Dr. Duyen Le

Every woman has the possibility of having vaginal infection, which is caused by bacteria, yeast, or viruses. Chemicals in soaps, sprays, or even clothing that come in contact with this area could be irritating the delicate skin and tissues.

Types of Vaginitis

Doctors refer to the various conditions that induce an infection or inflammation of the vagina as “vaginitis.” The most common types are:

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Candida or “yeast” infections
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Reactions or allergies (non-infectious vaginitis)
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Viral vaginitis

Although they may have various symptoms, a diagnosis can be tricky even for an experienced doctor. Part of the problem is that you could have more than one simultaneously.

You could also suffer an infection without any symptoms.

What’s Normal? What Symptoms Aren’t?

A woman’s vagina makes discharge that’s frequently clear or slightly cloudy. Partly, it shows how the vagina cleans itself.

It doesn’t actually have a smell or make you itch. How much of it and exactly what it looks and feels like can change during your menstrual cycle. At one point, you may have just a small amount of a very thin or watery discharge, and at another time of the month, it’s thicker and much more than before. That’s all usual.

When the discharge has a very noteworthy odor, or burns or itches, that’s probably a problem. You might feel irritated any time of the day, but it’s most often troublesome at night. Having sex can contribute to a worse condition of symptoms.

You should go to your doctor when:

  • Your vaginal discharge gets off color, is heavier, or smells different.
  • You take notice of itching, burning, swelling, or soreness around or outside of your vagina.
  • It burns when you urinate.
  • Sex is not comfortable.

Yeast Infection or Bacterial Vaginosis?

Two of the most common causes are related to organisms that exist in your vagina. They can have extremely similar symptoms. Yeast infections are an overgrowth of the yeast that you usually have in your body. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the balance of bacteria is thrown off. With both conditions, you may take notice of white or grayish discharge.

How can you distinguish them? If it smells fishy, bacterial vaginosis is a better guess. If your discharge looks like cottage cheese, a yeast infection may be the cause. That’s also more likely to induce itching and burning, though bacterial vaginosis might make you itchy, too.

And you could have both simultaneously.

Spread Through Sex

You can suffer vaginal infections through sexual contact, too:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts
  • Trichomoniasis

Women may not show obvious symptoms of these STDs. If you’re sexually active (especially if you have multiple partners), you should talk to your doctor about making a diagnosis of them at your annual checkup.

If left untreated, some of these can permanently damage your reproductive organs or cause other health problems. You could also infect a partner with these diseases.

Non-Infectious Vaginitis

Sometimes itching, burning, and even discharge occur without an infection. Most often, it’s an allergic reaction to or irritation from products like:

  • Detergents
  • Douches
  • Fabric softeners
  • Perfumed soaps
  • Spermicides
  • Vaginal sprays

It could also be from a lower level of hormones owing to menopause or because you’ve had your ovaries removed. This can have your vagina dry, a condition called atrophic vaginitis. Sexual intercourse could because pain, and you may notice vaginal itching and burning.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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