What is a vaginal infection?

Virginal infections are common, and every woman should experience an infection sometime during their lifetime. Any burning, itching, abnormal discharge or unpleasant odour should be an indication of a vaginal infection.

What causes vaginal infections?

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, which relies on bacteria and yeast to balance the pH in the vagina. The following factors can disrupt the balance in the pH of the vagina, such as:

  • Soaps
  • Douches
  • Antibiotics
  • Vaginal intercourse
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Hormonal changes

The most common vaginal infections are:

Yeast infections – these infections are caused by candida, a fungus that usually causes no harm, but grows in warm moist areas and can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as:

  • Excessive amounts of thick, white vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal itching

Bacterial vaginosis – lactobacilli bacteria, which live in the vagina and cause no harm, can trigger a Gardnerella infection when bacteria levels get too low. Symptoms of this infection are:

  • Either a thick and whitish or a slippery and clear discharge.
  • A noticeably fishy odour

Trichomonas - a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a Trichomonas vaginalis parasite. Symptoms include:

  • Vaginal burning and itching
  • Redness and swelling of the vaginal lips (vulva)
  • Yellow-grey or green vaginal discharge
  • Fishy odour
  • Painful urination

Chlamydia vaginitis – a sexually transmitted disease which causes:

  • Vaginal inflammation
  • Bleeding during intercourse

Non-infectious vaginitis – this infection is more like an allergy due to scented sanitary wear, perfumed soaps and fabric softeners. The symptoms of this infection are:

  • The skin around the vagina becomes sensitive and possibly burns or itches when exposed to the irritant.

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Vulvodynia – this condition’s cause is unknown; however, symptoms may include:

  • Burning or stinging or the vulva
  • Swelling or the vulva
  • Soreness and rawness of the vulva

Viral vaginosis – this infection is caused by a virus which spreads through sexual contact. The herpes virus is a common cause of this infection. Symptoms include:

  • Sores or lesions in the vagina or on the vulva

How are vaginal infections treated?

Treatment will depend on the infection and its severity. After Dr Tini has done an evaluation, she will be able to determine the cause and prescribe treatment. Treatment may include a vaginal suppository, antifungal medication, or antibiotics.

If you experience large amounts of vaginal discharge and the following symptoms, emergency care may be required:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Lesions, rashes or sores on the skin
  • Out of normal symptoms for more than three days

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1Does a vaginal infection mean I have an STD?

No, vaginal infections are not always indicative of an STD.

2Can vaginal infections go away on their own?

If you have any symptoms of an infection, it is important to see your doctor for treatment as soon as possible. Untreated vaginal infections could lead to more severe complications.

3Can my diet improve symptoms?

Your diet cannot cure your infection, but a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing infections such as thrush (yeast infection).