Ever since you were born, different types of bacteria have been living naturally inside your vagina. Among them are different strains of good bacteria that produce acid to help fight off bacteria, viruses and fungi that should not be living inside your vagina.
If your vagina is not getting the correct love and attention it needs and prefers, then various types of vaginal infections can occur from a disruption between the good and bad bacteria inside the vagina. According to Bupa, vaginal infections will occur for as many as around three-quarters of all women.
Common types of vaginal infections
This is a type of fungal infection from any of the candida yeast species. Candidiasis can show itself in many different ways, such as by creating a very itchy vagina to also (but not always) making a thick, white clotted discharge.
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
The symptoms this imbalance can create are mainly changes to the usual vaginal discharge. This then can cause a greyish coloured, fishy smelling discharge from the vagina. Although, it is said that up to half of the woman who have bacterial vaginosis show no symptoms at all.
- Trichomoniasis vaginitis (trich)
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease, that like all vaginal infections, causes inflammation in this area. It is thought to be caused by a single-celled protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. ‘Trich’ causes an infection specifically in two areas in women, the vagina and the urethra. As many as 70% of people infected with trich do not show any signs or symptoms. But when people do show symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation in the vaginal region.
- Chlamydia vaginitis
Also a sexually transmitted disease, this time caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It should be stressed that untreated chlamydia can cause permanent damage to your reproductive organs, including infertility. Hectic stuff. Symptoms may only show up in 30% of women (so even if you are symptom free you could still have it), and include vaginal discharge changes, pain in the pelvic area, pain after having sex or urinating, and bleeding in between periods.
- Viral vaginitis
There are many types of viruses that can causes viral vaginitis, most of these are spread through sexual contact. Herpes simplex virus is one type of virus that can cause viral vaginitis. Symptoms of this include mainly pain in the genital region often with lesions and sores accompanying this. The sores will mainly show on the vulva (just outside the vagina) or on the or in the vagina itself, and they can resemble warts which in some cases are very painful. One source of viral vaginitis is the human papillomavirus (HPV). This is a virus that is transmitted also through sexual intercourse.
- Non-infectious vaginitis
Non-infectious vaginitis usually means having some sort of vaginal irritation without any infection being present. So, this is why instead of the cause being from a virus or bacteria – it is usually caused by an allergic reaction or irritation from applying a vaginal spray, douche, spermicidal product, perfumed soap, detergent, or fabric softeners that you have washed your underwear in. Sometimes this non-infectious vaginitis can occur from a decrease in hormones because of menopause starting, or if you have had surgical removal of the ovaries, radiation therapy, or even after childbirth. The latter is more related to women who breastfed. Symptoms include vaginal itching, burning, pain, blood spots, and changes in discharge.
- Other STD’s
We have covered several STD’s above, but there are many more common STD’s that can cause vaginal infections. Several of which include, gonorrhoea, syphilis, scabies, mycoplasma genitalia, crabs (pubic lice), and HIV/AIDS. Having an STD is one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose, not just because there are so many but because some can be symptomless. Symptoms can be varied from itching to chronic pain. A sure fired way to spread an STD is to get up close and personal with someone, and the more partners you do this with, the more you increase your chances of catching one, and spreading one you may have. I guess everything fun comes with a price!
Choose safe sex, and healthy sexual partners
To reduce the risk of catching a vaginal infection, it is good to not only practise safe sex, but ladies – to also be choosy when it comes to who you share your lady bits with. If you are sexually active, I cannot stress the importance enough of regular STD testing to rule out anything serious. Especially if you just haven’t found the one, and are changing sexual partners on a regular basis.
Also, as we have seen, it’s not just sexual intercourse alone that puts you at risk of catching a vaginal infection. Over scrubbing, and using perfumed soaps and talc’s, can also disrupt the delicate pH of your vaginal area. So be good to your vagina, and it will be good to you.