Vaginal infections, or vaginitis, describe the most common medical concerns women have in the area of their reproductive organs. Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that creates discharge, odor, irritation, or itching. It is difficult to diagnose because vaginitis has many causes.
The vagina creates its own environment and maintains a balance among the normal bacteria found there and the hormonal changes in a women’s body. Vaginitis occurs when the vaginal ecosystem has been changed by certain medications such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptive preparations (oral and topical), douches, vaginal medication, sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases, stress, and change in sexual partners.
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of vaginitis, accounting for 50% of cases. BV is causes by a change in the bacteria normally found in the vagina and causes an overgrowth of organisms such as Gardnerella vaginalis. This is not considered a sexually transmitted infection.
- Risk factors include pregnancy, intrauterine device (IUD) use, and frequent douching. It is associated with sexual activity, possibly a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners. Women who have never had sexual intercourse are rarely affected.
- You do not get BV from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools.
- This varies by race and ethnicity from 6% in Asians and 9% in whites to 16% in Hispanics and 23% in African Americans.
Treatment: Vaginal or oral metronidazole
- Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. This is also called candidiasis, genital candidiasis, or vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC).
- Nearly 75% of all adult women have had at least one genital yeast infection in their lifetime. Vaginal yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but 12% to 15% of men will develop symptoms such as itching and penile rash following sexual contact with an infected partner.
- Common causes:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics destroy protective bacteria in the vagina. These bacteria normally stop the candida organisms from overgrowing.
- Diabetes: Both diabetes and pregnancy make the vagina better suited for fungal growth. These conditions lower the glycogen store in certain vaginal cells. They may also raise the sugar content (and the pH) of the vagina and put you at risk for yeast infection.
- Excessive alcohol, birth control pills, ovulation, menopause. Wearing underwear that is tight or non-cotton, douching, perfumed feminine sprays, scratches to vagina (during insertion of a tampon or other objects)
Treatment: Antifungal medications