A variety of different kinds of bacteria exists in a healthy vagina—good and bad—but when bad bacteria become too prevalent, the result is vaginitis. When there is fungal overload, it is a yeast infection.
While yeast infections are the most common cause of vaginitis, they are not the only trigger. The type of vaginitis is often identifiable by the color and consistency of any discharge.
Vaginal infections are not unusual, but ignoring them is not a good idea. Not only do they cause discomfort and possible embarrassment, but some symptoms mimic other ailments, including some sexually transmitted diseases.
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms of either a yeast infection or vaginitis, it is important to give your gynecologist a call.
Besides yeast infections, two other common causes of vaginitis are bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. The former results from changes to the vagina’s normal bacteria, while the latter – often called “trick” – is a parasite usually transmitted via intercourse.
Suspect bacterial vaginosis if a whitish, fishy smelling discharge develops. If trichomoniasis is the issue, the discharge is greenish and foamy, with a particularly bad odor.
Menopausal women or those approaching menopause may suffer from vaginitis due to thinning of the vaginal lining as estrogen levels diminish.
Symptoms of vaginitis vary, and few women experience all symptoms during a vaginitis episode. Suspect vaginitis if any of the following problems appear:
- Vaginal itching
- Burning sensation
- Painful sex
- Pain while urinating
Yeast infections result from an excess growth of fungus in the vagina. The most common culprit is Candida albicans. Most women experience an occasional yeast infection over the course of their lives.
Suspect a yeast infection when experiencing vaginitis symptoms, accompanied by a thick discharge. This emission has the appearance and texture of cottage cheese.
Any woman can develop vaginitis, but certain factors increase the risk. These include:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Vaginal hygiene products
- Damp clothing
- IUD use
- Certain medications, including steroids and antibiotics
- Changes in hormone levels, as occurs during menopause, pregnancy, or with the use of birth control pills
Sexual activity also increases the odds of developing vaginitis, but women who are not sexually active may have outbreaks.
Although there is no surefire way to prevent vaginitis or yeast infections, there are simple steps to reduce the likelihood of coming down with either intimate problem.
Daily washing of the vagina with a mild, perfume-free soap helps, as does taking care to always wash the vaginal/anal area from front to back. Wear cotton rather than synthetic underwear, and avoid tight pants. When it is warm out, do not bother with pantyhose. It could provoke vaginitis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Besides a visual inspection, vaginitis and yeast infections are diagnosed by examining a sample of the discharge under a microscope. Treatment for any variety of vaginitis is relatively straightforward.
Bacterial vaginitis generally responds to a course of antibiotics. Trichomoniasis also responds to antibiotics, but the sex partner, who may appear asymptomatic, must take the medication as well.
While over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections are available, it is always best for someone to consult a gynecologist rather than treat themselves. That is because a definite diagnosis is necessary, rather than guesswork. When a gynecologist diagnoses a yeast infection, the patient receives appropriate prescription anti-fungal medication.
Contacting a Doctor
If you suspect you may have vaginitis or a yeast infection, or any other gynecological issues, call an experienced doctor to schedule an appointment and examination.