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Vaginal Infections

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How Can I Protect Myself From Bacterial Vaginosis?

Ways to prevent bacterial vaginosis are not yet known. Female hygiene products like douches and deodorants will not cure the infection. These products may even make the infection worse.

What Vaginal Infections Are Spread Through Sex?

There are several vaginal infections that are transmitted through sexual contact. Trichomoniasis, caused by a tiny single-celled organism that infects the vagina, can cause a frothy, greenish-yellow discharge. Often this discharge will have a foul smell. Women with trichomonal vaginitis may complain of itching and soreness of the vagina and vulva, as well as burning during urination. In addition, there can be discomfort in the lower abdomen and vaginal pain with intercourse. These symptoms may be worse after the menstrual period. Many women, however, do not develop any symptoms.

Chlamydia is another sexually transmitted form of vaginitis. Unfortunately, most women with chlamydia infection do not have symptoms, which makes diagnosis difficult. A vaginal discharge is sometimes present, but not always. More often, a woman might experience light bleeding, especially after intercourse, and she may have pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis. Chlamydial vaginitis is most common in young women (18-35 years) who have multiple sexual partners. If you fit this description, you should request screening for chlamydia during your annual checkup. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause damage to a woman's reproductive organs, and can make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant.

Several sexually transmitted viruses cause vaginitis, including the herpes simplex virus and the humanpapilloma virus (HPV). The primary symptom of herpes is pain associated with lesions or "sores." These sores usually are visible on the vulva or the vagina but occasionally are deep inside the vagina and can only be seen during a gynecologic exam.

HPV, sometimes referred to as genital warts, can cause warts to grow in the vagina, rectum, vulva, or groin. These warts, when visible, usually are white to gray in color, but they may be pink or purple. When warts are not visible, a Pap smear or a more specialized HPV test may be the only way to detect the virus.

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