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Vaginal infections are caused by bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses growing in and around your vagina and vulva. Most women can live with a vaginal infection without even knowing they have it. However, in some cases, these infections can cause disruption to your vagina function if it gets out of control.
There are a few types of vaginal infections such as:
Some vaginal infections can be sexually transmitted (STIs) and a person can get it from having unprotected intercourse with an infected person.
Some common causes include;
Douching (washing the vagina)
Taking certain medications
Use of tampons or even contraceptives
Use of certain products such as soap, intimate hygiene products or laundry detergent
Depending on which type of vaginal infection a woman is suffering from, the symptoms may vary from one another.
Symptoms of common vaginal infections can include the following:
Unusual, thick discharge from the vagina with a fishy smell. Colours range from white, grey, green or yellow.
Itchiness, soreness and irritation around the vagina.
Pain during sexual intercourse or passing urine and pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis.
Bleeding between periods or after sexual intercourse.
Start to develop warts or ulcers around the vulva.
Mild vaginal infections may not cause any pain and can even clear up after a few days. But severe vaginal infections may cause pain in different ways depending on the type of vaginal infection a woman may have.
Pain that a woman may experience if she has a vaginal infection include:
Frequent screening for vaginal inspections is encouraged if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above.
As a precaution, women should get screened for vaginal infections if they are:
Sexually active and change sexual partners often.
Have a partner who was recently diagnosed with an STI or planning to get pregnant.
Once your healthcare provider has a general understanding of your concerns and sexual history, they will then proceed to conduct a pelvis and vaginal examination. Other tests may include a vaginal swab, pap smear or even an ultrasound of the pelvis just to rule out any other conditions.
Your provider may also conduct a High Vaginal Swab. Similar to a pap smear test, a high vaginal swab is performed by obtaining a sample from the vagina using a speculum (a tool commonly used during pelvic examinations).
Once your provider has the necessary results, they will then be able to determine how mild or severe your vaginal infection is and suggest the right treatment.
Treatments for vaginal infections differ depending on how mild or severe the infection is.
Treatment can come in the form of oral medications, creams, and pessaries. Some healthcare providers will prescribe boric acid to treat vaginal infections.
The best way to prevent vaginal infections is to practice safe sex, get screened regularly for STIs or STDs, ensure your partner is treated for any infection and avoid using feminine douching products.