Vaginal infections, which fall under the umbrella term of vaginitis, are common in women during their reproductive years. Caused by a variety of factors, vaginal infections can result in inflammation of the vagina, a change in your vaginal odor or discharge, and sometimes pain.
Read on for more detailed information on vaginal infections, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Are Vaginal Infections the Same as Vaginitis?
Effectively, yes. Vaginal infections are the result of an imbalance in the natural yeast and bacteria found in the vagina, and although each infection can have different causes, symptoms, and treatment options, they all fall under the blanket term of Vaginitis.
Vaginal Infections: Typical Symptoms
Most vaginal infections can result in similar symptoms, making them tricky to diagnose without the help of a medical professional.
Although there are some specific symptoms related to each vaginal infection (more on those below), these are the most common symptoms of vaginitis:
- Pain or discomfort around the vagina and vulva
- Vaginal itching
- Burning sensation during urination
- Inflamed vagina and vulva
- Changes to the color, odor, or amount of vaginal discharge
- Discomfort or pain during intercourse
- Spotting between periods
Some women with vaginal infections may not experience any of the above symptoms, all women will not experience all of the symptoms, but most women experience at least one or two.
Types of Vaginal Infections
While there are many types of vaginal infections, we’ve listed and discussed the most common types below, along with their unique symptoms and causes, as well as treatment options.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Symptoms
In addition to the above-mentioned symptoms, unique indicators of BV include a thin watery discharge varying in color from grey to yellow, or sometimes green. You may also notice a fishy smell from your vaginal discharge which can intensify after sexual intercourse.
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
BV is an infection caused by the overgrowth of certain bacteria in the vagina, which in turn upsets the natural pH balance. Although it is more prevalent in women aged 15-44, women of any age can be affected by BV.
While it is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, unprotected sex, oral sex, and contact with infected genitals are thought to increase the risk of infection. Smoking and douching are also believed to affect the overgrowth of bacteria associated with BV.
Treatment Options for Bacterial Vaginosis
Antibiotics are necessary to treat BV, however, current research on natural remedies also looks positive in confirming that Boric Acid Suppositories, when taken as a regular supplement, can prevent recurring BV infections.
Used in conjunction with antibiotic treatment for BV, Boric Acid Suppositories from Intimate Rose, for example, are designed to work quickly to help soothe irritation and rebalance the vaginal microflora. It is important to note that Boric Acid should never be taken orally or by pregnant women.
Yeast Infection: Symptoms
The most typical sign of a yeast infection is a white, clumpy vaginal discharge that resembles Cottage Cheese. This type of infection usually emits an intense odor too, like stale cheese or rotting fish, and is accompanied by itching or irritation of the vulva.
Pain during intercourse could also be a side effect of a yeast infection and discharge has been known to turn a yellow-green color if left untreated for too long.
What Causes Yeast Infections?
While a certain amount of yeast in the vagina is perfectly normal, the natural pH balance can be upset when a fungus known as Candida Albicans is allowed to thrive into an infection.
Causes of this imbalance to the natural pH of the vagina include hormonal changes, stress, a compromised immune system, the use of birth control pills, or antibiotics to treat another condition.
Treatment Options for Yeast Infections
Yeast infections are easily cured with over-the-counter creams or ointments and it is advisable to abstain from intercourse until the infection has cleared.
Should you suffer from regular yeast infections, however, a regular intake of probiotics, like Flora Bloom Probiotics, from Intimate Rose will help to balance the natural pH of your vagina.
Widely recommended by OB/GYNs, these probiotics with added cranberry and D Mannose, encourage a healthy pH balance and help to prevent further yeast infections.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Symptoms
Symptoms of a UTI will depend on which part of the urinary tract is infected. While most UTIs typically occur in the urethra or bladder located in the lower urinary tract, a small percentage can occur in the upper urinary tract i.e. the ureters and kidneys. Even though upper urinary tract infections are rare, they are also more serious.
In addition to the typical symptoms associated with vaginal infections mentioned above, lower urinary tract infections are uniquely indicated by pain in the lower belly or pelvic area, as well as a strong odor from urine, which can also have a cloudy tea-like color.
Upper tract infections can cause symptoms like fever, chills, vomiting, as well as chronic pain in the upper back and side body.
What Causes Urinary Tract Infections?
A urinary tract infection is generally caused by bacteria entering the urethra via the rectum.
In a woman’s body, the urethra (the tube where urine exits the body from the bladder) is quite close to both the vagina and the anus, allowing bacterial microbes to pass more easily from the anus to the urethra.
Poor genital hygiene can also lead to urinary tract infections, as well as bacterial microbes entering the urethra during sex, or while women are pregnant. Not drinking enough water, which naturally flushes toxins from the body, can also increase the risk of UTIs.
Treatment Options for UTIs
Should you suspect you have a UTI, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. UTIs will not go away by themselves and they become more serious, the longer they are left untreated.
Bacterial UTIs are generally treated with antibiotics, for example. Antivirals are used to treat viral UTIs. And antifungals are used to treat fungal UTIs.
For extra help in preventing recurring bladder infections, women’s health experts recommend natural supplements of D-Mannose to stop bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder.
Freeze Dried Aloe Vera Supplements with D-Mannose & Calcium from Intimate Rose, for example, when taken in conjunction with medical treatments will help to soothe bladder and urinary tract infections.
When taken on an ongoing preventative basis, the added D-Mannose will discourage any future harmful bacteria from adhering to the bladder, and the alkalizing calcium will help to maintain a healthy pH balance in the vagina.
Trichomoniasis is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the world, but according to the CDC, up to 85% of infected women showed no symptoms and did not know they had the infection until randomly tested.
When women do experience symptoms, however, the most common indicators include vaginal spotting, itching, redness, or swelling, as well as a frequent need to urinate and a possible burning feeling when peeing. Vaginal discharge can also change to a milky white color, grey, yellow, or green accompanied by an unpleasant odor.
What Causes Trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis, which is also referred to as trich, is caused by a parasite known as Trichomonas Vaginalisas (TV) that is passed on during unprotected sex. Trich cannot be passed on through oral or anal sex, neither can it be contracted from kissing, hugging, sharing the same cutlery, or from toilet seats.
Trich is contracted from having sex without a condom, or by sharing sex toys that have not been cleaned between use.
Treatment Options for Trichomoniasis
Trichomoniasis is easily treated with antibiotics, however, if left untreated, it could lead to more serious conditions and severe discomfort. It’s also important to notify your recent sexual partners to receive treatment to avoid reinfection, or further spreading to other sexual partners.
Other Causes of Vaginal Infections
Is a condition that typically occurs after menopause, however, it can also manifest while breastfeeding, or when the body naturally decreases the production of estrogen. Symptoms include the vaginal walls becoming thinner and dryer, which results in inflammation and discomfort during urination and intercourse.
Is a method that some women use to cleanse the vagina. According to female health experts, however, the vagina is perfectly capable of keeping itself clean, and douching merely reduces the healthy bacteria in the vagina, leaving it more susceptible to the infections mentioned above.
These are types of birth control that are directly inserted into the vagina to kill sperm and prevent pregnancy. While this type of contraceptive works for some women, in others it can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina, cause irritation and inflammation, and eventually lead to an infection.
Tight Fitting Clothes
Especially synthetic underwear or tight pants like jeans or leggings, will prevent the vagina from ‘breathing’ and result in trapped moisture. This type of trapped moisture, which also results from leaving wet bathing suits on for too long, can cause vaginal irritation or a pH imbalance that results in a vaginal infection.
Detergents & Scented Soap
Can also be responsible for your vaginal infection. Should you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms after changing your detergent, soap, or shower gel, you might want to consider trying another brand. Certain scented products like these can affect the vaginal pH in some women, which can easily lead to infection.
While vaginal infections can be incredibly uncomfortable and disrupting to everyday life for some women, they are usually not serious and once treated correctly they typically improve quickly.
Should you suspect you have a vaginal infection it is always better to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to ensure you receive the correct diagnosis and treatment. While some infections can be treated with over-the-counter treatments or natural remedies, others require medication.
National Center for Biotechnology Information – Clinicians use of Intravaginal Boric Acid Maintenance Therapy for Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis and Bacterial Vaginosis -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6878170/
Hindawi – Association between Semen Exposure and Incident Bacterial Vaginosis
Office on Women’s Health- Vaginal Yeast Infections -https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/vaginal-yeast-infections
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Probiotics for vulvovaginal candidiasis in non‐pregnant women- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6486023/
Mayo Clinic – Urinary Tract Infection - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences - A promising support for acute urinary tract infections in women. A pilot study. europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2920-2925-D-mannose-a-promising-support-for-acute-urinary-tract-infections-in-women.-A-pilot-study.pdf
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Trichomonasias Statistics - https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stats.htm