An infection or change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria can cause inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis). Symptoms include vaginal discharge, odor, itching and pain.
Common types of vaginitis include:
1. bacterial vaginosis, which results from overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina;
2. yeast infections, which are usually caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans;
3. trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite and is commonly transmitted by sex.
Find about causes and symptoms of these types of vaginal inflammation to protect your overall health and your close relationship.
Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginal inflammation that results from the overgrowth of one of several types of bacteria normally present in the vagina, upsetting the natural balance of vaginal bacteria
Bacterial vaginosis – not to be confused with candidiasis (yeast infection) or Trichomonas vaginalis (trichomoniasis) which are not caused by bacteria – is caused by an imbalance of naturally occurring bacterial flora (the usual bacteria found in a woman’s vagina). Smoking and the use of some hygiene products are linked to a higher risk of developing BV.
Bacterial vaginosis signs and symptoms may include:
- Vaginal discharge that’s thin and grayish white
- Foul-smelling “fishy” vaginal odor, especially after sexual intercourse
- Vaginal itching
- Burning during urination
However, many women with bacterial vaginosis have no signs or symptoms at all.
When to see a doctor
You probably need to see your doctor if you have new vaginal symptoms and:
- You’ve never had a vaginal infection. Seeing your doctor will establish the cause and help you learn to identify signs and symptoms.
- You’ve had vaginal infections before, but these symptoms seem different.
- You’ve had multiple sex partners or a recent new partner. You could have a sexually transmitted infection. Signs and symptoms of some sexually transmitted infections are similar to those of bacterial vaginosis.
- You’ve tried self-treatment for a yeast infection with an over-the-counter anti-yeast medication and your symptoms persist, you have a fever, or you have a particularly unpleasant vaginal odor.
Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina. Usually, “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber “bad” bacteria (anaerobes) in your vagina. But if anaerobic bacteria become too numerous, they upset the natural balance of microorganisms in your vagina, resulting in bacterial vaginosis.
Although bacterial vaginosis will sometimes clear up without treatment, all women with symptoms of bacterial vaginosis should be treated to avoid complications. Male partners generally do not need to be treated. However, bacterial vaginosis may spread between female sex partners.
Bacterial vaginosis is treatable with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. Two different antibiotics are recommended as treatment for bacterial vaginosis: metronidazole or clindamycin. Either can be used with non-pregnant or pregnant women, but the recommended dosages differ. Bacterial vaginosis usually clears up in 2 or 3 days with antibiotics, but treatment goes on for 7 days. Do not stop using your medicine just because your symptoms are better. Be sure to take the full course of antibiotics. Antibiotics usually work well and have few side effects. But taking them can lead to a vaginal yeast infection. A yeast infection can cause itching, redness, and a lumpy, white discharge. If you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor about what to do.
Despite effective treatments for bacterial vaginosis, recurrence of symptoms within three to 12 months is common. Researchers are exploring treatment regimens for recurrent bacterial vaginosis. If your symptoms recur soon after treatment, talk with your doctor about treatment options, one of which is extended-use metronidazole therapy.
ALL ABOUT CANDIDA
We all have some candida, which is a type of yeast, existing naturally in our bodies. If you’re healthy, have good immunity and your body is in balance, then your own friendly bacteria keep the amount of candida in check. But if your body gets thrown off balance through illness, hormonal issues, long-term antibiotic treatment or poor diet, your candida levels could start to multiply and get out of hand-and that’s when the problems start.
Candida can have much wider-ranging symptoms than thrush, which if the condition most people associate with it. In fact, if your health is not as good as it should be, candida can affect your entire body, and in lots of different ways. Given room to reign, candida changes from yeast into its fungal form when the spores travel through your intestinal wall and out into the rest of your body. The fungus can damage the walls of your intestines to point where toxins are able to enter your bloodstream. This condition is called ‘leaky gut syndrome’ and often leads to food allergies, migraines and depression. And, inside your intestines, candida could cause diarrhoea or constipation, bloating and flatulence.
Once the fungal spores from the candida get into your bloodstream, they can travel to any part of your body. They can live anywhere there are mucous membranes. The spores particularly like the vagina, lungs and the sinuses, where they break down cell membranes to provide food for other bacteria and viruses.
Candida has the ability to disrupt your endocrine system, which controls your hormone levels. This could lead to all sorts of unpleasant and diverse symptoms ranging from weight gain or weight loss to PMS, menstrual problems, joint pain, asthma, hay fever, muscle fatigue and chronic tiredness.
There’s no one specific cause of candida. What causes one person’s problem could be very different from what causes another’s. Simply put, there’s no single thing that sends candida into overdrive, but there are a number of contributory factors that could induce it in people who might be susceptible. It could be triggered by taking long-term antibiotics, which kill off the good bacteria that usually keep candida in check. Equally, it could appear because of hormonal imbalances due to the contraceptive pill, HRT and even puberty, pregnancy and the menopause. Even a diet that’s high in sugary and processed foods could give candida fighting chances in your body.
The secret to beating candida for good is to find out what caused it in the first place. Candida feeds on sugar, so if you have a candida overgrowth, it’s important to give up sucrose and glucose found in foods such as cakes biscuits, sweets and many convenience foods. Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is more controversial; some sufferers can tolerate it while others can’t – so it’s worth cutting out the others first before you start to avoid fruit, which has many other health benefits. It’s best to avoid alcohol, which has high sugar levels.
As with many health conditions, it’s good to get as much exercise as you can. Physical activity helps increase the amount of oxygen in your body, which is great for fighting back against candida spores and will also help reduce your stress levels. Coping with candida is very draining, mainly because it can be so difficult to establish what’s wrong. Many people’s symptoms get so bad that they need to have time off work, which is why it’s crucial to get a proper diagnosis.
It’s worth getting your iron levels checked. Like most fungus, candida thrives on a lack of oxygen, so if your blood doesn’t contain enough iron to carry plenty of oxygen around your body, candida will have a field day – and no amount of restrictive dieting will help.
Find out if you have any food allergies or intolerances. If your body finds it hard to digest a certain type of food, it could end up sitting in your gut and feeding your candida, making matters worse. But, rather than haphazardly cutting out wheat, dairy and yeast, it’s best to establish if you have a true allergy in the first place.
Eating a balanced diet is important to help keep your immune system as healthy as possible. Many people with candida are low on essential fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6, so include plenty of these in your diet-flaxseeds and oily fish are good sources or you could take a supplement. A multivitamin and mineral formula is a good nutritional safety net too – if your body is out of balance, you might not absorb all the nutrients you need from your food.
A probiotic supplement such as acidophilus may be useful to help repopulate the good bacteria in your gut, which keep candida in check. An anti-fungal or anti-yeast herbal product may also be worth a try to help kill off candida spores. There is no cure-all supplement for candida – you just need to find the right one for you. Try supplements for a few months to give them a chance to work.
Some people become depressed about the effect candida is having on their life, you can find the right treatment and look forward to feeling healthy and happy again.
SYMPTOMS OF TRICHOMONIASIS
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (TV).
Symptoms of trichomoniasis usually develop within a month of infection, although up to half of all infected men and women have no symptoms. In women, trichomoniasis can cause soreness and itching around the vagina and a change in vaginal discharge. Infected men may experience pain during urination and a thin white discharge from the penis.
Symptoms of trichomoniasis are similar to those of many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and usually develop within a month of infection, although up to half of all infected men and women have no symptoms.
Symptoms in women
Trichomoniasis mainly affects the vagina and urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) in women, causing any of the following symptoms:
- abnormal vaginal discharge that may be thick, thin or frothy and yellow-green in colour
- producing more discharge than normal, which may also have an unpleasant fishy smell
- soreness, inflammation (swelling) and itching around the vagina – sometimes your inner thighs also become itchy
- pain or discomfort when passing urine or having sex
- pain in your lower abdomen (tummy)
Symptoms in men
Trichomoniasis mainly affects the urethra in men, although the foreskin, head of the penis and prostate gland (a gland near the bladder that helps produce semen) are occasionally affected.
The infection can cause any of the following symptoms:
- pain during urination or ejaculation
- needing to urinate more frequently than usual
- thin white discharge from the penis
- soreness, swelling and redness around the head of the penis and foreskin (balanitis)
Trichomoniasis can usually be diagnosed after an examination of your genital area and a laboratory test carried out on a swab taken from the vagina or penis. If the test shows that you have trichomoniasis, it is important that your current sexual partner and any other recent partners are also tested and treated.
In women, the trichomoniasis parasite mainly infects the vagina and urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body). In men, the infection most commonly affects the urethra, but the head of the penis or prostate gland (a gland near the bladder that helps produce semen) can become infected in some cases.
The parasite is usually spread by having unprotected sex (without using a condom), although it can also be spread by sharing sex toys. You do not have to have many sexual partners to catch trichomoniasis. Anyone who is sexually active can catch it and pass it on.
Trichomoniasis cannot be passed on through oral or anal sex, kissing, hugging, sharing cups, plates or cutlery, toilet seats or towels.
The best way to prevent trichomoniasis is to have safer sex. This means always using a condom when having sex, covering any sex toys you use with a condom, and washing sex toys after use.
Trichomoniasis is unlikely to go away without treatment, but it can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Most men and women are treated with an antibiotic called metronidazole, which is usually taken twice a day for five to seven days.
It is important to complete the whole course of antibiotics and avoid having sex until the infection clears up to prevent reinfection.
Your current sexual partner and any other recent partners should also be treated.