Recurrent Yeast Infections (Vaginitis)
Vaginitis develops when the vagina experiences inflammation, and most commonly results in a general sense of discomfort, embarrassing discharge, itching, and pain. Typically, it occurs when the normal bacterial presence within the vagina is altered, but an infection can also be the cause. Numerous vaginitis types exist, and each has a different treatment method. The most common include yeast infections, trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, vaginal atrophy, and noninfectious vaginitis.
The causes of vaginitis will vary depending on the type that you have, and an explanation is discussed below.
Yeast infections occur when fungal organisms overgrow in the vaginal environment. The most common organism that causes these infections is C. albicans. This organism also causes other infections such as thrush, nail bed infections, and skin fold infections.
Bacterial vaginosis develops when vaginal organisms overgrow. In typical cases, the good bacteria located within the vagina outnumber the bad. However, if the anaerobic or bad bacteria grow too high in number, bacterial vaginosis can occur. Women who are not sexually active can develop this type of vaginosis, and it can be spread during sexual intercourse.
This sexually transmitted infection is caused by the Trichomonas vaginalis parasite. The parasite spreads during intercourse with a person that already has the infection. It causes no symptoms in men.
This type of vaginitis is caused by products that stimulate an allergic reaction or act as an irritant to vaginal tissue. Vaginal sprays, perfumed soaps, spermicidal agents, scented detergents, and douches can all be responsible.
Vaginitis Associated Conditions
Vaginitis and its symptoms may be the result of other underlying conditions or diseases. These include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Sexually transmitted diseases
It is important to talk to your doctor when symptoms arise to determine whether you are simply battling a vaginal infection or if your symptoms could be the result of a more serious condition or complication.
Symptoms of Vaginitis
Symptoms of vaginitis may include the following:
- Vaginal irritation or itching
- Change in amount, odor, or color of discharge
- Painful urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Spotting or light vaginal bleeding
The appearance of the discharge you are experiencing can indicate what type of vaginitis you are dealing with. Examples can include the following:
Yeast Infections: The primary symptom is itching, but a thick, milky discharge that resembles cottage cheese in consistency may also be noticed.
Bacterial Vaginosis: Discharge may have the odor of fish and can be the most obvious after sex. A grayish-white color is also typical with this type.
Trichomoniasis: The discharge will look frothy and yellow-green in color.
If you begin to experience discomfort in your vaginal area, you should see your doctor. This is especially true if you have never had vaginitis in the past, or if you have previously had a vaginal infection and the new one seems different.
Vaginitis Risk Factors
Risk factors vary depending on the type of vaginitis you are experiencing. For example, factors that increase a woman’s risk of developing a yeast infection includes uncontrolled diabetes, changes in hormones, or the use of certain medications like steroids and antibiotics. Risk factors for bacterial vaginosis include the use of an IUD or women who have multiple sexual partners.
The process of diagnosing vaginitis is straightforward. Your doctor will review your medical history and will specifically look for any prior vaginal infections. Testing will be done to check for any type of sexually transmitted infections and a pelvic exam may be ordered. Your physician will take a sample of any discharge that they find in order for it to be analyzed in a lab. The results will determine exactly what type of vaginitis is being experienced.