Vaginal infections are one of the most common types of infection in the world. More than 80% of women will experience some type of vaginal infection during their lives, so if you haven’t gotten one yet, you probably will. Vaginal infections are easy to catch, so you shouldn’t be ashamed if you do have one. Treatment is quick and easy and health risks associated with most vaginal infections are low.

Bacterial vaginosis or vaginitis is an inflammation which occurs in the vagina and includes several strains of germ that cause bacterial vaginosis yeast infections and trichomoniasis. Many women mistakenly believe that yeast infections are the most common type of vaginal infection but bacterial vaginosis is the most frequently occurring vaginal infection affecting from 10 percent to 64 percent of the female population at any given time.

Although treatment is available which quickly cures bacterial vaginosis, if left untreated bacterial vaginosis may increase a woman’s risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometritis, cervicitis, pregnancy complications, and post-operative infections among other health conditions.

Bacterial vaginosis occurs most during the reproductive years although women of all ages are susceptible to this infection that affects the vagina, urethra, bladder, and skin in the genital area.

The most common types of vaginitis are

  • Bacterial vaginosis. This type of vaginitis results from overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina, upsetting the natural balance of vaginal bacteria. More than one in six pregnant women in the United States has bacterial vaginosis, though many aren’t aware of it.
  • Yeast infections. A naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans usually causes this type of vaginitis. An estimated three out of four women will have a yeast infection in their lifetime.
  • Trichomoniasis. This type is caused by a parasite and is commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse.
  • Atrophic vaginitis. This type results from reduced estrogen levels after menopause. The vaginal tissues become thinner and drier, which may lead to itching, burning or pain.

Treatment and causes for Vaginal Infections

Simple treatments exist for both bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. Some treatments are available over-the-counter and can be taken in the privacy of your own home. Treatment courses are generally short.

  • Bacterial Vaginosis: Cures for bacterial vaginosis are available only by prescription. Bacterial vaginosis treatment usually consists of antibiotics, such as metronidazole or clindamycin. Treatment is usually in oral or cream form.
  • Yeast Infections: Yeast infection treatment comes in cream or suppository form. If you are sure you have a yeast infection, these can be treated at home with over-the-counter medication.

The cause depends on the type of vaginitis you have.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina. Usually, “good” bacteria outnumber “bad” bacteria in your vagina. But if bad bacteria become too numerous, they upset the balance and bacterial vaginosis results. This type of vaginitis can spread during sexual intercourse, but it also occurs in people who aren’t sexually active. Women with new or multiple sex partners, as well as women who douche or use an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control, have a higher risk of bacterial vaginosis.

Yeast infections

Yeast infections occur when certain internal or external factors change the normal environment of your vagina and trigger an overgrowth of a microscopic fungus – the most common being C. albicans. A yeast infection isn’t considered a sexually transmitted disease. Besides causing most vaginal yeast infections, C. albicans also causes infections in other moist areas of your body, such as in your mouth (thrush), skin folds and fingernail beds. The fungi can also cause diaper rash.

Factors that increase your risk of yeast infections include:

  • Medications, such as antibiotics and steroids
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy, birth control pills and menopause

Bubble baths, vaginal contraceptives, damp or tightfitting clothing and feminine hygiene products, such as sprays and deodorants, don’t cause yeast infections, but they may increase your susceptibility to infection.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. The organism usually infects the urinary tract in men, but often causes no symptoms in men. Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina in women.

Consequences of Vaginal Infections

Most vaginal infections present no risk to your health, though they can be quite uncomfortable. However, bacterial vaginosis and pregnancy are not a healthy combination. If you are pregnant, bacterial vaginosis has been linked with preterm birth.

It is also important that you don’t confuse a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis with a more serious sexually transmitted disease.Trichomoniasis produces symptoms that are similar to other vaginal infections, but it is much more serious and requires specific treatment.

Sources: Epigee, Womens Health

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