How to treat vaginitisEver experienced vaginal itching or irritation, or abnormal discharge? Approximately 3 out of every 4 women will suffer from vaginitis at least once in their lives. There are a host of factors that can trigger this inflammation, and the treatment depends on the cause.
What is vaginitis?Vaginitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the vagina. It can also be associated with vulvitis (inflammation of the vulva). Symptoms vary depending on the cause
What causes vaginitis?
This article deals only with vaginitis caused by an infectious agent. Other non-infectious causes, including menopause or the use of irritant products, can also lead to vaginitis
Yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis)
Vaginal yeast infections are caused by an imbalance in the vaginal flora and a change in the vagina's pH level. When this happens, fungi usually present in the vagina (Candida albicans in 90% of cases) can multiply and cause infection.
Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections typically include a thick, white or yellowish discharge, accompanied by often severe itching or irritation.
A vaginal yeast infection is not the same as a urinary tract infection.
As the name suggests, bacterial vaginosis (or BV) is caused by bacteria that take advantage of an imbalance in the vaginal flora to multiply more than usual, causing an infection. These bacteria are naturally present in the vagina, and BV is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Bacterial vaginosis causes a whitish-grey, foul-smelling discharge (often described as a fishy odour), and can sometimes be accompanied by mild itchiness.
Trichomoniasis (also referred to as parasitic vaginitis)
Trichomoniasis, or trich, is a sexually transmitted infection but, contrary to other STIs, it is easily treatable.
It is caused by a microscopic parasite found beneath the foreskin of the penis or in vaginal discharge. Symptoms usually appear anywhere between 5 and 28 days after unprotected sexual intercourse.
Foul-smelling, yellowish or green frothy discharge is common with this type of vaginitis, as is itching.
Several factors can increase the risk of vaginal yeast infections by altering the vagina’s natural balance:
- Hormonal changes related to pregnancy, menstruation, or contraceptives
- Age (women in their thirties and forties are especially prone)
- Sexual activity
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Strong emotions
- Sportswear that causes chafing or traps moisture in the genital area (cycling shorts, swimsuits)
How to treat vaginitis
Vaginal yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medications. These include vaginal tablets and suppositories (or ovules), creams, and single-dose oral tablets. If you opt for cream or suppositories, take them at bedtime for 1 to 7 consecutive days and continue use during your period. Panty liners are recommended throughout the course of treatment.
If symptoms persist even after taking OTC medications, you should see a doctor.
Sexual partners generally don’t need treatment, as yeast infections are rarely transmitted to men. However, if your partner experiences redness and itching around the head of his penis, he can apply an antifungal cream twice a day for 7 days.
Bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis
Bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis both require a medical examination, as these conditions are treated with antibiotics that can only be acquired with a doctor's prescription.
In the case of trichomoniasis, it is important that sexual partners also be treated, even if they do not have any symptoms.
When should you see a doctor for vaginitis?
It is recommended you see a doctor to get a diagnosis if this is the first time you have experienced abnormal vaginal discharge.
Vaginal discharge that is foul smelling or that is accompanied by the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis described above always requires a medical consultation, in order to obtain the appropriate prescription-only treatment.
In the case of a vaginal yeast infection, it is important to consult a doctor in the following cases:
- You are a girl who is under the age of 12 or prepubescent.
- You are pregnant.
- You are diabetic.
- You have bleeding.
- This is your second infection in less than two months or you have had four or more infections in the past 12 months.
- You have a fever, abdominal pain, or an increased urge to urinate.
How to prevent vaginitis?
To reduce the risk of vaginitis, avoid anything that may irritate the vagina or that can promote the growth of fungi and the spread of bacteria:
- Scented hygiene products
- Tight clothing
- Vaginal douches
- Oils, strong soaps, perfumes
- Underwear made from synthetic fabrics
To reduce the risk of trichomoniasis, always practice safe sex.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.