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Causes of vaginal infections

If you’ve ever experienced intimate discomforts such as discharge, itching, burning, pain or odor, you probably suffered from a vaginal infection or vaginitis. The most common infections are bacterial vaginosis and thrush (yeast infection), both considered to be an imbalance of the vaginal flora.

Bacterial vaginosis can be recognized by burning and pain in the intimate area, and a thin gray or white discharge with a characteristic fishy smell. Yeast infection is best known for itch and irritation in the vaginal area, and a thick white discharge, most commonly described as similar to cottage cheese.

What causes a vaginal infection?

Imbalance in the vaginal flora is one of the most common causes of vaginal infections. Once the numbers of the good bacteria living inside of the vagina are reduced, bad bacteria and yeast start growing rapidly, causing discomfort and infection.

The imbalance can happen while or after using antibiotics, due to hormonal changes, after using hygienic products such as soap, taking a bubble bath or using lotions, or even after using intimate products including vaginal sprays and condoms.

“Imbalance in the vaginal flora is one of the most common causes of vaginal infections”

Vaginal discomforts can also occur due to irritants and allergens present in laundry detergents or a fabric softener you’ve been using, and sometimes even from the chemicals used to color the clothing. Synthetic underwear can also cause irritation and promote yeast growth, as well as pads and panty liners that contain scents or dyes. The result can be an overgrowth of bacteria, resulting in bacterial vaginosis, or a yeast infection. Discomforts can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections.

The impact of hormones

Another important factor that can affect your vaginal health is the hormonal status. Changes in hormone levels are perceived to have an impact on the development of vaginal infections. It can also cause other problems.

Estrogen levels can drop right before menstruation, during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and during menopause. This reduces the natural lubrication of the vaginal walls, making the vagina dry and prone to damage during penetration. This results in pain during intercourse, inflammation and soreness.

If you experience symptoms such as discharge, odor, pain, itch, burning or soreness, consult your health care provider to get appropriate treatment and prevent further complications.