A healthy vaginal contains friendly fungi and bacteria. Fungi quite happily live in the vagina maintaining the vagina’s pH at healthy levels and do not cause any problems. Fungi like warm, moist, airless places, and the vagina is a perfect home for them. Candida spp. lives on the skin and around the vaginal area and causes no harm, or adverse symptoms, unless they multiply too much and this can result in problems. The vagina also produces natural antibiotics that kill any bad bacteria. Bacterial infections often occur when the bacterial balance in the vagina is disrupted.
Vaginal infections can cause discomfort and unpleasant symptoms generally making you feel miserable. If you believe you have a problem and are suffering or frustrated with continual infections, book an appointment with our doctor as soon as you can. We will help you with advice and treatments to help you stay healthy and medications that suit your individual needs.
The main types of vaginal infection are Bacterial Vaginosis, Thrush, Vaginitis, (STIs) Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis.
Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition caused by an overgrowth of particular bacteria. It is not an infection caused by one type. The vagina contains a mix of bacteria which is present in a healthy vagina. In BV this balance changes: what triggers the bacterial balance to change is unknown however it is more likely to happen if something disturbs the acidity of the vagina.
Most of the time, the only symptom of BV is a change in vaginal discharge. It does not usually cause irritation or itching but the discharge has a strong fishy smell and is greyish or white. The smell is also stronger after sexual intercourse.
Excessive washing of the vagina with perfumed soaps or deodorants are often the responsible agent in altering the normal balance. So please avoid these to aid you get better.Those at risk of developing Bacterial Vaginosis:
Over use of bubble bath and/or perfumed soaps panty liners, biological washing powder, tight-fitting clothes, spermicides or condoms.
Prolonged or heavy periods.
Following courses of antibiotics. Although thrush is a more common after courses of antibiotic.
It is more common in sexually active women. BV infection occurs whether you have sex with women or with men.
Frequent changes of sexual partner, or having more than one regular partner, increases your risk.
A past history of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
If you smoke.
Have a copper coil for contraception - an (IUCD).
Hormonal changes. i.e. Puberty, pregnancy or the menopause.
Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the normal yeasts and fungi that live in the vagina. The symptoms are itchiness and soreness with a thick white or thin watery discharge with pain. It is not sexually transmitted but often is associated with hormonal changes or after a course of antibiotics. It can be treated with over-the-counter medications consisting of a cream and/or pessaries and tablets. Some pessaries and creams damage latex condoms and diaphragms you should use them with caution as a contraceptive. You should always use an alternative method of contraception during treatment and for several days after. If treatment does not respond then contact our doctor further investigation we will take a swab to determine whether you have more than one infection and start you on the right treatment. Topical treatments can be used during pregnancy but are usually needed for longer. Always check with the doctor if it is okay to use while pregnant. It may not be thrush and needs different treatment.
If you have vaginal discharge or vulval itches do not assume it is thrush.When to visit our doctor:
Lower abdominal/pelvic pain
Self medicating for thrush, but the symptoms still persist.
Had two episodes of thrush in six months without consulting a doctor
If the discharge has a bad smell, or have ulcers or blisters next to your vagina
Under 16 or over 60 years of age.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding.
You or your partner had a previous sexually transmitted infection.
Had a bad reaction to anti-thrush medication or treatments.
Have a weakened immune system - On chemotherapy treatment for cancer or taking long-term steroid medication.
If you are diabetic, your risk of recurrent thrush is higher if your blood sugar is consistently high.
is very common in postmenopausal women, due to the falling levels of oestrogen. This then causes changes in the vaginal pH and may predispose women to UTIs and/or vaginal infections.
Dryness of the vagina is the most common symptom. The lining of vagina is thinner, less elastic and more fragile and can become inflamed.
Urinary symptoms – e.g. increased frequency, stress incontinence or urgency, nocturia, dysuria, or recurrent UTIs.
There may be burning or itching of the vagina or vulva.
Dyspareunia. (Pain Having Sex)
Vaginal discharge (usually white or yellow).
Vaginal bleeding or postcoital bleeding.
Vaginal atrophy is a chronic condition affecting post menopausal women significantly. It impacts on sexual health and the quality of life however there are effective and safe treatments available to help you regain some control over your life again. Arrange an appointment with our doctor at the clinic who will give you advise and help.
These are sexually transmitted diseases and present with different symptoms. In some cases, you may not show any symptoms even though you have the infection. Symptoms of Chlamydia include painful periods, abnormal discharge which may have a strong odour with burning or itching in or around the vagina. Gonorrhoea typically causes pain in the genital tract.
The first noticeable symptom of Syphilis is a small sore that is painless. About two to ten weeks after it appears, you may develop sores in the vagina, anus or mouth, inflamed glands, a skin rash that then turns to reddish-brown sores, weight loss, fever, headache, fatigue, hair loss, and muscle aches.
Go to our Sexual Health page for more information on Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea Sexual Health Packages and Individual STI Tests for Syphilis.
Treatment for vaginal infections depends on the cause. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and antifungal creams, pessaries and tablets to treat fungal infections. You can also maintain your vaginal health by using pads instead of tampons. Please refrain from over using powders, sprays, deodorants, and other feminine hygiene products.
Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear. Keep your genital area dry and clean. Use unscented soap to clean the genital area. Take a warm bath and dry yourself properly. Avoid spraying water inside the vagina or douching as it removes the healthy bacteria from the vagina.
Please call our doctor when you believe there is a noticeable odour or change to your vaginal discharge, soreness, swelling, itching or burning outside of or around your vagina. Feel a burning or a constant sensation to pee all the time, or experience pain during sex. We will find out if there is a problem, do some tests for you, and make you feel well and yourself again quickly.
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