Vaginal Infections (Vaginitis)
Vaginal Infections Overview
Vaginal infections, or vaginitis is an
inflammation of the vagina that
creates discharge, odor, irritation, or itching. It is difficult to diagnose
because vaginitis has many causes. Women use a variety of over-the-counter
medications to treat the itching, discharge, and discomfort of these conditions.
- The vagina creates its own environment and maintains a
balance among the normal bacteria found there and the hormonal changes in a
woman's body. Vaginitis occurs when the vaginal ecosystem has been changed by
certain medications such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptive preparations
(oral and topical), douches, vaginal medication, sexual intercourse, sexually
transmitted diseases, stress, and change in sexual partners.
- Some vaginal infections are transmitted through sexual contact, but others
such as yeast infections probably are not. Vaginitis means inflammation and is
often caused by infections, but may be due to hormonal changes (especially when
a woman is going through menopause) or due to trauma in young girls. Some
infections are associated with more serious diseases.
- Three vaginal infections are the most common. Their causes are quite
different but, their signs and symptoms are similar, and treatments of the
three conditions vary.
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Vaginal yeast infection
- Many women often mistakenly think they have a "yeast
infection" and treat themselves when, in fact, they have a similar vaginal
infection that will not
respond to self-treatment with over-the-counter yeast medications. A study by the American Social Health Association found that 70% of women
self-treated vaginal infections before calling a health care provider. Most
often, they incorrectly thought they had a yeast infection when, in fact, it was
- The important thing is not to guess, but to recognize the symptoms if you
develop a vaginal infection. If you have any concerns, see your health care
practitioner for precise testing
and to get the most appropriate and effective treatment right away.
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