Vaginitis is a common gynecologic condition that affects women causing abnormal discharge, itching, burning, and pain in the vagina.
The vagina is a muscular canal averaging a length of about 6 to 7 inches, that runs from the cervix to the outside of the body, lined by a mucus membrane. The vaginal opening serves as an exit door for daily discharge flow.
However, in this condition, the normal vagina discharges a woman experiences changes in the amount, color, or smell; thereby causing irritation; or itching or burning which could be due to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the vagina.
Types of Vaginitis
This is the most common cause of vaginitis for women of childbearing age, between the ages of 15 and 44 years. It is caused by an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina.
The lining of the vagina, gets thinner, due to decreased estrogen levels during the menopause, thereby causing irritation and inflammation.
This type of vaginitis is caused by a sexually transmitted, microscopic, one-celled protozoan parasite, called Trichomonas vaginalis. It can also infect the urethra, where urine leaves the body. It is normally contracted through sexual intercourse with someone who has the infection.
Candida albicans: This is a yeast that causes a fungal infection, known as vaginal thrush. It occur when there’s an overgrowth of a fungal organism, usually C. albicans, in your vagina. C. albicans are also responsible for infections in other moist areas of your body, such as your mouth, skin folds and nail beds.
Symptoms of Vaginitis
The 6 most common symptoms of vaginitis include:
- Irritation of the vulva (a woman’s genital area)
- White, gray, watery, or foamy discharge
- Inflammation, leading to redness and swelling of the vulva, caused by an excess of immune cells
- Pain or discomfort when urinating
- Difficult and painful sexual intercourse, known as dyspareunia
- Foul or bad vaginal odor
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Causes of Vaginitis
Infection is the most common cause of vaginitis, such as candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis.
Bacteria vaginosis, for example, frequently develops after sexual intercourse with a new partner, and it is hardly developed by a woman who has never had sexual intercourse
- Poor hygiene.
Vaginitis can also result from allergic reactions to condoms, semen, spermicides, and some topical medications.
Women with diabetics are at high risk of developing Vaginitis. Other factors that increase the risk of vaginitis include pregnancy, using vaginal products, such as sprays, and some birth control devices, using antibiotics and wearing tight or damp underwear.
Transmission of Vaginitis
The most common way vaginitis is transferred is through sexual intercourse. People who are sexually active or have multiple sexual partners are at higher risk of bacterial vaginosis( a particular type of vaginitis).
In the doctor’s office, the doctor will first carry out a physical examination and ask if you’ve had any sexually transmitted diseases in the past.
A pelvic exam may be conducted by the doctor to check for vaginitis and excess discharge. If the results are positive, a sample of discharge may be taken so as to determine the cause of the inflammation.
Different ways of diagnosing the cause of vaginitis include checking the vaginal pH level, checking the appearance of the vaginal fluid, and the presence of the gas that causes a bad smell(volatile amines).
Treatment of Vaginitis
Treatment for vaginitis depends on the cause. Most common treatment options include topical or oral antibiotics, low-potency topical steroids, applied to the skin, antibacterial or antifungals creams.
For Bacterial vaginitis (BV), it is usually treated with antibiotics, such as metronidazole (Flagyl), or clindamycin.
For fungal infections, medications used to treat it are butoconazole and clotrimazole.
Other options include:
- Antihistamines, if the inflammation of the vagina appears to stem from an allergic reaction.
- Cortisone cream for treatment of severe irritation.
- Topical estrogen cream, if the cause is low estrogen levels.
Prevention of Vaginitis
The following best practices may help prevent Vaginitis
- Good physical hygiene
- Wiping from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the vagina
- Having sex with a condom
- Use of mild soaps without irritants or scents
- Wearing cotton underwear
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing
- Using antibiotics only when necessary
vaginitis in women isn’t a death sentence as studies have shown that it is common for most women to have vaginitis at least once in their life.
Therefore, if you start having the symptoms, visit your doctor immediately. Taking the antibiotics prescribed by your doctor will basically treat and remove any infections and reduce the inflammation.
Lastly, abstinense from sex and not using any vaginal products containing irritants for the duration of time after diagnosis may also speed up recovery.