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Vaginal infection. Causes, symptoms and treatment

Did you know that almost all women will suffer from vaginal discomforts at some point in their lives? If you are currently experiencing itch, discharge or redness; don’t worry you are not alone.

Infections are the main cause of vaginal discomforts. The most common are bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection, also known as thrush or candida. Not sure which infection causes your discomforts or would you like to know more about the treatment, then read on!

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) develops when the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina is disturbed. Normally, the healthy lactobacilli are the dominating bacteria in the vagina, but if BV develops, other unwanted bacteria start to overgrow the lactobacilli.

Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis may include:

  • Foul, fish-like vaginal odor (intensifies after sexual intercourse)
  • A thin, grayish white discharge
  • Vaginal burning (intensifies during urination)
  • Vaginal itching

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

The cause of the disturbance in your vaginal flora is not exactly known. There are however some factors that can increase the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis; being sexual active is one of them.

If you have unprotected sex, your vagina’s acidic pH value temporarily increases due to sperm which is alkaline. This is not necessarily harmful to your vagina, but an increase in vaginal pH may increase your chances of developing bacterial vaginosis.

Treatment and prevention

Following a course of antibiotics is the most common form of treatment for bacterial vaginosis. Antibiotics may be effective, but they do have their disadvantages and the risk for resistance development. There are also self-care products available that can treat bacterial vaginosis. Look for the products that optimize your vaginal flora; these will not only treat BV, but also help prevent your discomforts.

Vaginal yeast infection

A yeast infection, also known as candida or thrush, is another common cause of vaginal discomforts. It is caused by an overgrowth of yeast, usually Candida albicans. It is not fully clear how and why yeast infection occurs, but the following factors may play a role:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • Using oral contraceptive pills or hormone therapy
  • A weakened immune system
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes

A vaginal yeast infection can cause discomforts such as:

  • Itch
  • Vaginal burning (intensifies during urination and sexual intercourse)
  • Thick, white discharge (like cottage cheese)
  • Vaginal irritation
  • Vaginal redness and swelling of the external intimate area

Treatment and prevention

If you would like to treat a vaginal yeast infection there are several options. One of the most common treatments is to use anti-yeast medication (antimycotics). These can be taken orally, or inserted into the vagina. For most women this type of treatment can be very effective in the short term. They can, however, cause side effects such as nausea, headache or vomiting. Moreover, many/most women experience recurring yeast complaints within a few months.

There are also self-care products available that you can buy without a prescription. Such products will relief the symptoms of a yeast infection but don’t cause negative side-effects. If you consider these products, choose a self-care product with natural ingredients that protect your vaginal flora.