Vaginitis: What Should I Know?
Vaginal health is an important part of a woman's overall well being. Vaginal problems can affect your fertility, desire for sex and ability to reach orgasm. Ongoing vaginal health issues can also cause stress or relationship problems and impact your self-confidence.
The vagina is a really complex and amazing thing. In fact, inside the vagina there is a system of millions of micro-organisms, all working together to maintain a perfect pH balance and protect you from infection, or other problems.
The vagina has its own chemical balance, which can be easily disturbed. If the lining of the vagina becomes inflamed, a condition known as vaginitis may develop.
Vaginitis causes swelling, itching or burning in the vagina, and is often combined with an unusual smell or discharge. Vaginitis is typically caused by a change in the balance of normal bacteria flora that lives in a woman's vagina, by an infection or a reaction to chemicals or scents . As many as one third of women will have symptoms of vaginitis sometime during their lives. Vaginitis affects women of all ages but is most common during the reproductive years. Studies have shown that at least 40 percent of the time, women misdiagnose the type of vaginitis they are experiencing. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and its appropriate treatment.
Vaginitis is not always caused by a sexually transmitted infection. Women who are not sexually active may develop bacterial vaginosis (BV) or yeast infections. Most of the time these infections are caused by an upset in the balance of bacteria that is found commonly in the vagina. Trichomoniasis on the other hand is sexually transmitted.
There are different types of vaginitis. The most common are yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis (BV) and trichomoniasis. Their causes are quite different, but their signs and symptoms may be similar, and treatments of the three conditions vary.
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV) where the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted and replaced by an overgrowth or imbalance of the bacteria that occur naturally in the vagina. Women who have never had sexual intercourse are rarely affected. Bacterial vaginosis is associated with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility and tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. Bacterial vaginosis also can cause problems with pregnancy such as premature delivery and low-birth-weight infants.
- Yeast infection also is known as candidiasis. It is one of the most common types of vaginal infection. A majority of adult women have had at least one genital yeast infection in their lifetime. Yeast infection can spread to other parts of the body including skin, mucous membranes, heart valves, esophagus, and other areas. Infections tend to happen when an imbalance occurs. In rare circumstances, it can cause life-threatening systemic infections mostly in people with weakened immune defenses (such as women who are pregnant and people who are HIV positive, have diabetes, or on long term steroids).
- Trichomoniasis is a type of vaginal infection caused by the parasite “Trichomonas vaginalis” that is usually transmitted through sex. Trichomoniasis is primarily an infection of the urinary and genital tract. It is important for sex partners to be treated so it is not passed back and forth. Trichomoniasis is associated with increased risk of transmission of HIV