Vaginal infections (also called vaginosis) are common, affecting tens of millions of women in the U.S. each year. Here are five of the most common causes of vaginosis, as well as the recommended treatment:
1) Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is an imbalance of the normal bacteria that lives in the vagina. It can cause vaginal itching as well as a gray, fishy-smelling discharge. More than 20 million women are diagnosed with BV each year, making it the most common cause of vaginosis for women ages 15-44.
Risk factors for developing BV include douching, having multiple sexual partners, using perfumed vaginal products and smoking. BV can be treated with oral antibiotics or with a vaginal antibiotic gel.
2) Yeast Infections
Yeast infections happen when a normally occurring vaginal fungus called Candida overgrows and causes symptoms, including vaginal itching, burning and a clumped, white discharge.
While almost every woman will experience a yeast infection in her lifetime, common risk factors also include taking oral antibiotics, pregnancy, use of hormonal contraception and uncontrolled diabetes.
Yeast infections can be treated with an oral or topical antifungal medication.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the one-celled Trichomonas vaginalis protozoa. Symptoms include vaginal itching and burning, vaginal discharge, burning with urination and pain with intercourse.
Trichomoniasis is treated with oral antibiotics. It’s important to have your partner treated, too, since both men and women can become infected with Trichomonas.
Chlamydia is a bacterial STI that can cause burning with urination, vaginal burning and vaginal discharge. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), a serious infection of the female reproductive tract that can cause pelvic pain, fever, and scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can cause infertility.
Chlamydia is treated with oral antibiotics. Chlamydia does not always cause symptoms so it’s important to be frequently tested for STI’s while sexually active. Ensure you’re your partners are treated, too, to prevent re-infections.
Gonorrhea is another bacterial STI that can cause increased vaginal discharge, burning with urination, painful intercourse and abnormal vaginal bleeding. If left untreated, gonorrhea can also cause PID. If a pregnant woman has gonorrhea that goes undetected or untreated, it can infect the eyes of the baby during a vaginal delivery.
Since there’s an increased resistance of gonorrhea to oral antibiotics, the treatment of choice is an antibiotic injection. Partners should be treated, too, to prevent re-infection.