What is Vaginitis? Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Did you know that about 43.5 per cent of the sexually active women suffer from a condition called vaginitis? Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina.

It is a common infection that affects women irrespective of age, but more so during the reproductive years. A change in the balance of the yeast and bacteria that normally live in the vagina can result in the vagina to be inflamed.

Common Causes:

• Causative agents include: yeasts, bacteria, viruses and parasites

• Bubble baths, perfumes, soaps containing certain chemicals, poor hygiene, and sexually transmitted infections.

• Some allergens, use of antibiotics, douching, spermicidal, changes in hormone levels due to pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause can also contribute to vaginitis

• Another major cause of vaginitis is Candida albicans (yeast causing infections)

• Protozoan parasite called trichomonas vaginitis causes trichomonas vaginitis (a sexuality transmitted infection)

Foreign bodies like lost tampons, contraceptives meant to be inserted in the vagina, sprays and other toiletries could also cause irritation and itching sensation in the private parts. Other factors such as tight fitting lingerie; non-absorbent clothing could cause heat rashes.

Women and girls need to understand that irritated, damp skin is an invitation for infection causing organisms that thrive and multiply in warm, damp, dark parts of the body. These factors can lead to vaginitis and if proper measures are not taken it can also prolong recovery.

What is Vaginitis

Atrophic Vaginitis:

Atrophic vaginitis is generally seen in postmenopausal women. It occurs due to:

• Lack of oestrogen, leading to vaginal dryness

• Thinning of skin around vulva and vagina, which may also lead to or worsen the itching and burning sensation around the genital region?

Non-specific Vaginitis:

• This could occur in young girls with poor hygiene and has a distinct foul-smelling, brownish-green discharge. Irritation in the labia and in the entrance to the vagina is its trademark.

• This condition occurs due to the overgrowth of a type of bacteria that is found in the stools.

• These bacteria spread to the vagina as a result of wiping from the back, i.e. from the rectum area to the front.

Gonorrhea related Vaginitis:

• Girls complaining of unusual infections, unexplained recurrent episode of vulvovaginitis, should be treated keeping in mind the factors of sexual abuse.

• Forced sexual encounters or rape could lead to Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the organism that causes gonorrhoeae.

• Neisseria gonorrhoeae produces gonococcal vulvovaginitis in young girls who have had early sexual encounters.

• Vaginitis occurring due to gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted illness. If tests confirm the same then young girls should be treated and evaluated as prime victims of sexual abuse.

Symptoms of Vaginitis:

• Vaginal discharge
• Genital burning and itching swelling and redness of vulva
• Fishy vaginal odor
• Pain during urination

Complication of Untreated Vaginitis:

Some of the complications associated with vaginitis indlude discomfort that does not go away, skin infection (from scratching) and increased risk of getting HIV if you come into contact with the virus when you have a vaginal infection of irritation.

Untreated vaginitis can lead to pelvic inflammatory diseases i.e. infection that affects uterus (womb), fallopian tubes and ovaries. In pregnancy, chances of preterm delivery and infection to the baby increase.

Also Read: Hormone Therapy for Menopausal and Post-menopausal Women

Treating Vaginitis:

Though over-the-counter medication is available, it is always advisable to visit your doctor or gynecologist. The Gynec will perform a pelvic examination. This may show red, tender areas on the vulva or vagina.

A vaginal swab is often taken and sent to the laboratory for test. If there are no signs of infection but irritation persists then a biopsy is recommended by the doctor.

• Treatment include counseling regarding hygiene.

• It is always advisable to wear absorbable underwear, preferably those with cotton lining in the crotch area.

• Cotton panties increase air flow and decrease moisture.

• It is best if one wears loose-fitting lingerie and removes them before going to bed.

• Proper cleansing is important and may help prevent irritation, particularly in those with infixions caused by bacteria normally found in stools.

• Children and girls should be instructed how to clean their genital areas properly while bathing.

• Proper cleaning after using the toilet, preferably form the front to the back, should be advised.

• Care should be taken before and after every toilet visit.

• Medications prescribed by the doctor could include – antibiotics (like metronidazole or clindamycin) and antifungal that can be applied locally (as gels, creams, tablets, pessaries, etc.) or ingested. Cortisone cream, antihistaminic for irritation and oestrogen creams, depending on the cause.

Prevention:

• Use of a condom during sexual intercourse can prevent most sexually transmitted vaginal infections.

• If a sexually transmitted infection is diagnosed, it is very important that other sexual partners receive treatment, even if they do not have symptoms.

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