Genital Infections: A concern females needs to talk about
Genital/vaginal infections are very common, and every woman experiences them at some point in her life. Most infections require medical attention, but few clear out on their own. Vaginal infections are classified into three types
- Yeast Infections: Caused by excessive growth of yeast in the vagina which causes irritation. The most common symptom is itching. Vaginal discharge in such cases tends to be white and thick.
- Bacterial Infections: Caused by excessive growth of bacteria. Its symptoms typically include greyish white vaginal discharge which smells fishy and a burning sensation while urination.
- Trichomoniasis: Caused by a parasite name Trichomonas vaginalis. Symptoms include itching and a greyish-white frothy vaginal discharge.
Genital infections: The most common symptoms include –
- Vaginal itching
- Change in the color or smell of the vaginal discharge.
- Change in the amount of vaginal discharge
- Painful sensation or burning sensation while urinating
- Pain during intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding/spotting
Genital infections: When you should go see a doctor immediately
- If you have never had a vaginal infection before
- If you have had an infection in the past but are experiencing new symptoms
- If you are pregnant
- If you have multiple sexual partners
- If you develop a fever
- If the symptoms return after treatment
Genital infections: The causes
Poor hygiene is one of the primary causes. They can also be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria due to changes in the vaginal environment. Certain times antibiotics can reduce the antifungal bacteria in your vagina, this can lead to yeast infections. Unprotected sex can make the woman susceptible to contracting the Trichomonas parasite leading to Trichomoniasis. Soaps, body washes, special ‘vaginal cleaners’, and vaginal contraceptive tend to disrupt the normal pH and thereby cause a disturbance in the natural environment, this is one of the leading causes of contracting vaginal infections.
Vaginal atrophy, which usually happens after menopause, can also happen to a woman of reproductive age. It can happen due to a decline in estrogen levels, for example, during breastfeeding. Reduces hormone levels lead to vaginal dryness and a thinning of the vaginal wall, which can lead to vaginal inflammation.
It is relatively easy to self-diagnose for any presence of infection, keep a track of the color and the consistency of your vaginal discharge and its smell. Check for any vaginal irritation or discomfort such as itching, painful urination, or dryness.
Medically, these infections are diagnosed by a simple medical history check which requires you to give information about any past infections and their frequency, the number of current sexual partners, any history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with a general overview of your health history. Certain times, the doctor may also carry out a pelvic exam and a sample of your vaginal discharge may be collected.
Treatment for vaginal infections includes
- completing the prescribed dosage of medication. These medicines include antifungal creams, estrogen creams or tablets, metronidazole cream or tablets or tinidazole tablets.
- Although medicines can be bought as over-the-counter, a prescription from a doctor is recommended so that the wrong medication doesn’t get a pair with the wrong infection. For example, antifungal creams for yeast infections are a bad combination as they are generally prescribed for bacterial infections.
- Infections can be prevented quite easily. Firstly, always have protected sex (unless you’re trying to conceive). Using condoms during sex not only reduces the chances of infections but also protects you from STIs. Proper hygiene can also keep the infections at bay.
- Do NOT wash your vagina with soaps or fill them up with water, this will cause an imbalance in the natural pH and can lead to vaginal infections. Whenever possible, wear cotton underwear as this provides a breathable environment for the vagina and keeps the outer regions dry and clean.
- Treatment of vaginal infections is reliable, quick and generally effective. A proper diagnosis will make sure that you get the proper medication and the needed treatment. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor for any unusual and/or regular symptoms.