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Vaginal Infections, Vaginitis - causes, symptoms, remedies

What is Vaginitis?

Vaginitis is an all encompassing terming referring to inflammation of the vagina.

The vaginal walls are lubricated by vaginal secretions and by mucus producing glands in the cervix. Dead cells and other substances are flushed out with the secretions which is part of the natural process of the vagina cleaning itself. The amount and appearance of the discharge itself varies with the different stages of the menstrual cycle. A normal discharge is generally clear or white.

Vaginitis may be the result of vaginal yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, trichomoniasis and chlamydia. Vaginal infections may cause itching, irritation, an abnormal discharge and inflammation.

Due to the vulva's proximity to the vagina, vulvitis often accompanies vaginitis and the inflammation is generally caused bby the same organisms.

Who can get vaginitis?

Bacterial vaginosis usually occurs in women of reproductive age. For unknown reasons the balance of naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina can get disturbed, allowing disease causing bacteria to dominate.

Yeast infections generally occur in women who are diabetic, on birth-control, antibiotics or who are pregnant. Yeast infections are most frequent between the ages of 16 and 35. 75% of all women will have a yeast infection at least once in their lifetime.

What causes vaginal infections?

While vaginal yeast infections can be caused by one of four varieties of the Candida fungus, almost 80% of vaginal yeast infections are caused by overgrowth of Candida albicans. This growth may be caused by significant changes in the diet or the use of corticosteroids or antibiotics

Bacterial vaginosis is primarily caused by Gardnerella vaginalis or Mobiluncus, although several other bacteria may also cause the disease. Bacterial infection is mainly caused by stress or a new sexual partner which may cause a change in the vaginal flora.

Vulvitis may be caused by chemical irritation or an allergic reaction to soaps, douches, bath oils, spermicides, lubricants, scented or colored toilet paper or perfumed pads or tampons.

What are the symptoms of vaginal infections?

When the vaginal discharge emits a foul odor or is white and cottage cheese like in appearance, it may be due to a vaginal yeast infection. Vaginal yeast infections are generally caused by an overgrowth of fungal yeast cells which upset the vagina's chemical balance.

The predominant symptom of bacterial vaginosis is a fishy smelling discharge. However women with this infection may exhibit no symptoms.

If the vulva is inflamed and itches, it may be vulvitis.

How are vaginal infections diagnosed and treated?

There are various tests to diagnose vulvitis. Pelvic exams can identify most cases but if secually transmitted disease is suspected then blood tests may be administered. If vulvitis persists, a biopsy to test for malignancy may be a necessary precaution.

If a vaginal yeast infection is diagnosed your doctor may prescribe an antifungal drug such as nystatin, miconazole or clotrimazole. There are many over the counter products also available for recurring vaginal infections

For post menopausal vulvitis or bacterial vaginosis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, estrogen suppositories or topical cream lubricants.

If the skin of the vulva is thick and has developed white patches, this may indicate a condition called lichen sclerosis or cancer of the vulva. An abnormal discharge, bleeding and/or firm lesion on any part of the vagina may indicate vaginal cancer. Such conditions warrant immediate attention from your physician.

Prevention and Natural Remedies for vaginal infections

  • Stop using products that can irritate the vagina such as soaps, sprays, perfumes either directly or through products such as spermicides, tampons, pads, douches and toilet paper. These can cause allergies or sensitivity.
  • Always wipe from front to back to avoid infection from any organisms present in fecal matter.
  • Monitor your sugar levels as excess sugar may cause yeast infections
  • Eat yogurt containing live cultures.
  • You can also apply yogurt to the vagina. Sometimes however this can worsen the situation.
  • Include garlic in your diet as it has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties
  • Wear cotton panties and avoid panty hose and tight clothing. This will aid in keeping the vagina cool and dry.
  • Sit in a warm bath in which salt has been added.
  • You can try herbal blends that applied topically can provide soothing relief. V-gel from Himalaya Herbals contains 9 herbs that are combined in an ayurvedic formula that helps to soothe itchiness, restores pH balance and relieves dryness.

References:

The Medical Advisor - The complete guide to Alternative & Conventional Treatments

Pub Med

Himalaya Herbals Company

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