Vaginal infections can make you uncomfortable, but they’re usually easily treatable with over-the-counter or prescription medication. Before you know it, you’ll be back to your normal routine, infection-free! Here are five common vaginal infections and how you can avoid them.
5 Common vaginal infections (And how to avoid them):
Though they’re usually not serious, vaginal infections are pretty common and can cause symptoms like itching, burning, and discharge. Here are five of the most common types of vaginal infections, including:
1. Bacterial vaginosis:
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by changes in the balance of good bacteria that usually protect against harmful bacteria that live naturally in our bodies. The symptoms are much like those for a yeast infection — burning, itchiness, and thick white discharge but without the thick curd-like clumps.
BV can be prevented by making sure you always wipe front to back after going to the bathroom, not douching, avoiding feminine hygiene products containing scents or fragrances, and changing out of wet clothes as soon as possible.
Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day and make sure your tampons are made of cotton rather than synthetic materials such as rayon or plastic.
The good news is that vaginosis is usually easy to treat with antibiotics. All you need to do is make an appointment with your doctor for a prescription. Some people might also find relief from topical creams or suppositories that can be bought at the drugstore.
But if your symptoms persist after treatment, call your doctor right away. Keep in mind that some forms of vaginosis are more serious than others and require additional treatments, so it’s important to know what kind you have before stopping treatment on your own.
For example, bacterial vaginosis will require medication but won’t likely need a surgical procedure. Trichomoniasis, meanwhile, requires antibiotic pills plus an oral medication called metronidazole (Flagyl).
And don’t forget that getting pregnant while being treated for trichomoniasis could put both mom and baby at risk because the infection could get passed onto them during childbirth. That’s why women who are trying to conceive should wait two weeks after they finish their course of Flagyl before trying again.
Another thing to watch out for is PID, which stands for pelvic inflammatory disease. It can cause fever, lower abdominal pain, and spotting between periods. PID occurs when a sexually transmitted infection moves up into the uterus through the cervix and irritates the fallopian tubes — that causes inflammation around these parts — and leads to scarring that blocks the tubes’ ability to carry eggs through properly.
2. Yeast infections:
A yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Symptoms include itching, burning, and thick, white discharge. You can avoid yeast infections by keeping your vagina clean and dry, avoiding douching, and wearing cotton underwear.
Yeast thrives in warm, moist environments. It’s important to keep your vaginal area as dry as possible by using panty liners or a maxi pad during menstruation. If you’re prone to yeast infections, take probiotics regularly and consult with a doctor if you think you may have been exposed to them during sex or while taking antibiotics.
Make sure to wash off after sex, wear loose clothing around your genitalia, use a condom every time you have intercourse, and stay away from bubble baths.
Thrush: A yeast infection caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. It’s a type of vaginitis that typically affects women who are on antibiotics or who have diabetes or suppressed immune systems — this is because it’s less acidic, which gives Candida more opportunity to grow in it — as well as pregnant women because their levels of estrogen drop and there’s an increase in blood flow to the vagina.
3. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs):
STDs are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. The best way to avoid getting an STD is to abstain from sexual activity, or to be in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is free of STDs.
However, if you are sexually active, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of getting an STD. First, use condoms every time you have sex. Condoms are the only contraceptive method that protects against both pregnancy and STDs. Second, get screened for STDs at least once a year — preferably more often if you’re at higher risk. Third, get vaccinated against HPV.
Fourth, practice safe oral sex by using barriers such as dental dams or plastic wrap when engaging in cunnilingus (oral sex performed on female genitals). Fifth, educate yourself about other ways to protect yourself during sex.
For example, many people don’t know that anal intercourse carries the same risks as vaginal intercourse, so they may need protection too. Sixth, don’t douche unless it’s recommended by your healthcare provider.
Douching upsets the balance of bacteria and other organisms in the vagina; it also washes away natural secretions like vaginal discharge and menstrual blood which protect against infection.
4. Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV):
Lymphogranuloma venereum is a sexually transmitted infection that’s caused by certain strains of the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It’s usually found in tropical and subtropical countries, but cases have been reported in the United States.
LGV can cause genital ulcers, lymph node swelling, and fever. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems like infertility. To avoid LGV, practice safe sex by using condoms and getting tested for STDs regularly.
Never share objects that may come into contact with your genitals, such as toothbrushes or razors. Wear clothing made from natural fibers instead of synthetics because they are less likely to trap moisture. And finally, don’t douche because doing so may irritate the vaginal tissues, making them more susceptible to infection.
The vagina cleans itself naturally — you shouldn’t need to do anything else. Keep up on your pelvic exams and pelvic floor exercises too!
A weak pelvic floor makes women more prone to urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence, uterine prolapse, sexual dysfunction, and decreased sexual pleasure. Doing Kegel exercises twice a day will strengthen your pelvic muscles and help prevent these conditions.
Finally, keep an eye out for any unusual discharge — whether it be itching or burning — because this could be an indication of bacterial vaginosis or other infections that should be treated promptly.
To avoid trichomoniasis, use condoms during sex and avoid sharing sex toys. The best way to be sure that you don’t have an infection is to get tested every year for STDs. If you notice any changes in your vaginal discharge or pain when urinating, it’s important to see a doctor right away.
Most infections can be treated with medication, but sometimes the treatment doesn’t work. In these cases, surgery may be necessary. It is possible to pass genital herpes from one person to another even if there are no symptoms.
There are antiviral drugs that can reduce transmission of genital herpes from one person to another if taken daily. HIV can spread from infected fluids in either blood or semen into areas of broken skin, including those inside the mouth, vagina, rectum, urethra and eyes.
Once HIV has entered the body, it takes time before the virus becomes active enough to cause illness. HIV-positive individuals who take their meds as prescribed and maintain a healthy lifestyle often live decades without ever developing AIDS symptoms.
However, many people contract other viruses alongside HIV which can lead to AIDS more quickly than would happen otherwise. Women with HPV can lower their risk of cervical cancer by getting regular screenings and receiving vaccinations against HPV.
Though they may seem daunting, vaginal infections are relatively common and easy to treat. With a little bit of knowledge and prevention, you can avoid them altogether. Just be sure to take care of your vagina by washing it every day with water, drying off completely after bathing or urinating, never using douches or scented feminine hygiene products as these can upset the natural balance in your vagina and make it more susceptible to infection.
It is also important that you always wear underwear made from cotton or another breathable material that doesn’t trap moisture close to your body; this will help keep your genitals dry and free from irritation that could lead to infection.