Taking care of your vagina can feel like a daunting task. Especially knowing that most women will develop some sort of vaginal infection at some point in their life, knowing what symptoms are normal and which ones are warning signs can feel like a maze. After all, all of our bodies are different and are constantly changing throughout our lives.
Vaginitis generally describes any infection that causes inflammation or irritation in the vulva or vagina. It can result from a buildup or imbalance of bacteria or yeast. There are a few common symptoms that are usually dead giveaways of an infection, including burning and itching, and abnormal discharge. Although these symptoms are the most common, knowing how to spot these infections ahead of time can allow you to treat them properly and safely.
The most tell-tale signs of a vaginal infection are:
- Change in the consistency, amount, color, or odor of your discharge
- Pain or burning sensation when urinating
- Pain during intercourse
- Spotting or bleeding
Vaginal infections can be caused by a variety of factors. Typically, these symptoms would fall in line under three categories of infection: bacterial, yeast, or trichomoniasis. Bacterial infections occur when there is an accumulation of bacteria in the vagina, which can upset the vagina’s normal pH balance. They are usually characterized by vaginal itching, a foul, almost fish-like odor, burning during urination, and thin, gray, white or green vaginal discharge.
If you are experiencing consistent, intense itchiness and irritation, this may be caused by a yeast infection. A yeast infection is a fungal infection that usually is in the vulva (interior) or vagina, and it may be accompanied by usually very thick discharge that has the consistency of cottage cheese. 3 out of 4 women will experience a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their life, with most having two episodes throughout their lifetime.
Vaginal infections can be caused by intercourse, but sex is not usually the sole perpetrator. When you talk to your doctor about your vaginal health, they will typically ask about your sexual history, as it can help determine what could be causing your infection, or what could lead to future infections. Trichomoniasis, a type of vaginal infection, is caused by a protozoan parasite that can be contracted through sexual intercourse. It usually results in itching and produces an unusual odor. Like the other kinds of infection, it produces an abnormal discharge that is usually foamy, greenish-yellow discharge.
After speaking to your doctor about your infection, you will most likely be prescribed a certain treatment depending on what is affecting you. For a bacterial infection, you may be prescribed Metronidazole tablets (can also be used to treat trichomoniasis), cream, or gel, or clindamycin cream or gel. If you are dealing with a yeast infection, you may be advised to use an antifungal cream.
If you are looking to prevent the development of vaginitis, personal hygiene plays a big role in caring for your vagina. You should always use a soap that is non-irritating to properly cleanse the vagina, and even switching to cotton underwear can be the key to letting your vagina breathe. When it comes to intercourse, practicing safe sex can help protect the vagina from any possible infections.
All in all, don’t be afraid to try to understand your body more. Speaking to your doctor about personal care should never be something to be ashamed over, and it can ensure future prevention.