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Women's Health

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Vaginal Infections and Vaginitis

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Yeast Infection or Bacterial Vaginosis?

Two of the most common causes are related to organisms that live in your vagina. They can have very similar symptoms. Yeast infections are an overgrowth of the yeast that you normally have in your body. Bacterial vaginosis happens when the balance of bacteria is thrown off. With both conditions, you may notice white or grayish discharge.

How can you tell them apart? If there's a fishy smell, bacterial vaginosis is a better guess. If your discharge looks like cottage cheese, a yeast infection may be to blame. That's also more likely to cause itching and burning, though bacterial vaginosis might make you itchy, too.

And you could have both at the same time.

Spread Through Sex

You can get vaginal infections through sexual contact, too:

Women may not have obvious symptoms of these STDs. If you're sexually active (especially if you have multiple partners), you should talk to your doctor about getting tested for them at your annual checkup.

If left untreated, some of these can permanently damage your reproductive organs or cause other health problems. You could also pass them to a partner.

Non-Infectious Vaginitis

Sometimes itching, burning, and even discharge happen without an infection. Most often, it's an allergic reaction to or irritation from products such as:

  • Detergents
  • Douches
  • Fabric softeners
  • Perfumed soaps
  • Spermicides
  • Vaginal sprays

It could also be from a lower level of hormones because of menopause or because you've had your ovaries removed. This can make your vagina dry, a condition called atrophic vaginitis. Sexual intercourse could be painful, and you may notice vaginal itching and burning.

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