How to protect your vagina from infections
Vaginitis describes a few conditions that can cause infection or inflammation of your vagina. Vulvovaginitis describes inflammation of both your vagina and your vulva. Your vulva is the external part of your genitals. Vaginal infections can occur due to yeast, bacteria, viruses, and irritants. They can be painful and reduce a person’s ability to participate in normal daily activities.
Vaginal infections can cause pain and discomfort. Without treatment, they may lead to complications that can adversely affect a person’s health. However, people can treat or manage most vaginal infections.
Some vaginal infections may not produce any symptoms but if you do develop symptoms, the most common are:
- Vaginal itching
- A change in the amount of discharge from your vagina
- A change in the color of your vaginal discharge
- Pain or burning during urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
The symptoms of vaginal infections will also vary based on the cause of your infection: Bacterial infections typically cause grayish-white or yellow discharge. This discharge may have a fish-like odor that’s easily noticed after se, yeast infections typically produce itching. If discharge is present, it may be thick and white and look like cottage cheese and trichomoniasis is a condition that can produce vaginal itching and odor. Discharge from this infection is typically greenish-yellow and may be frothy.
Vaginal infections aren’t life-threatening conditions. However, you should make an appointment to see your doctor if you:
- have never had a vaginal infection before
- have had a vaginal infection but are experiencing new symptoms
- have had different or new sexual partners
- develop a fever
- believe you may be pregnant
- have symptoms that return after treatment
Diagnosis of Vaginal Infection
To diagnose a vaginal infection, your doctor will ask you about your health history. They’ll also typically ask about your sexual health such as your current number of sexual partners and your history of past vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Your doctor may also perform a pelvic exam. During this exam, your doctor may collect a sample of vaginal discharge. They’ll send this sample to a laboratory for analysis. This can help your doctor learn what’s causing your infection
How prevent prevent vaginal infections
Not all vaginal infections can be prevented.
- Use a condom
Using a condom during sexual intercourse will help prevent the spread of STIs. It will also lower your risk of contracting them.
- Wear cotton and breathable underwear
When possible, you should wear cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch. This can lower your risk of developing vaginal inflammation and irritation because Cotton allows more air to flow through the genital area. Some women develop inflammation and irritation from wearing less breathable fabrics. Tight-fitting clothing, especially clothing that’s made out of manufactured materials like nylon and polyester can hold in moistur ; yeast especially likes to grow in dark, moist places.
- Avoid the use of scented products
Products such as scented tampons or pads, certain soaps, and detergents can irritate your vagina, causing an imbalance in the natural bacteria. Use unscented items and gentle cleansers. Avoid using powders and fragrant sprays in the genital area.
- Practice healthy hygiene
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises women against douching. This is because it can kill good bacteria in the vagina that prevent infections. Instead, you should clean only the outside areas of your vulva and vagina with gentle soap and water.
When to see a doctor
It is important to see a doctor if a person notices any change in their vaginal discharge, experiences any symptoms of an infection, or has a sexual partner with an STI. A doctor will be able to diagnose what is causing these symptoms and work out a treatment plan.