Vaginitis and Vaginal Infections
Causes of Vaginal Infections continued...
Nearly 75% of all adult women have had at least one genital yeast infection in her lifetime. Vaginal yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but 12% to 15% of men will develop symptoms such as itching and penile rash following sexual contact with an infected partner.
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of normally growing fungi in the vagina that creates unpleasant symptoms. The yeast are kept under control by normally growing bacteria in the body. If the natural balance of microorganisms is disrupted, the yeast grow out of control. It is not clear how fungal infections originate, but they are not thought to be sexually transmitted. Your own natural bacteria cause this type of infection when an imbalance occurs, possibly caused by any of these events:
- Antibiotics use: Antibiotics destroy protective bacteria in the vagina. These bacteria normally stop the candidal organisms from overgrowing. Yeast infection may occur after you have taken a course of antibiotics for another condition such as strep throat.
- Diabetes: Both diabetes and pregnancy make the vagina better suited for fungal growth. These conditions lower the glycogen store in certain vaginal cells. They may also raise the sugar content (and the pH) of the vagina and put you at risk for yeast infection.
- Excessive alcohol
- Birth control pills: Changes in the vaginal environment occur with increased hormonal levels from estrogen-containing birth control pills. This change creates an environment for the candidal fungus to grow and cause symptoms.
- Hormonal changes such as ovulation, menopause, or pregnancy
- Steroid use
- Weakened immune system; having HIV/AIDS
- Wearing underwear that is tight or non-cotton: This can increase temperature, moisture, and local irritation.
- Use of douches, perfumed feminine hygiene sprays
- Scratches in the vagina (during insertion of a tampon or other objects)
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease (also called trich, pronounced "trick") caused by a parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis is primarily an infection of the urinary and genital tract. For women, the vagina is the most common site of infection. For men, the urethra is most commonly affected.
Other causes of vaginal infection may be an allergy to spermicides, feminine hygiene products, and laundry detergents and fabric softeners. You may also have a different sexually transmitted disease. Older women may experience atrophic vaginitis (a thinning of the vaginal walls with menopause). You may have forgotten to remove a tampon, or another foreign object may be in your vagina causing irritation.
Symptoms of a Vaginal Infection
Vaginal discharge, itching, and burning are common symptoms of the various forms of vaginal infections. Although the symptoms of these infections can be very similar, there are some differences to look for in the color and odor of the discharge.
Some vaginal discharge is quite common and normal for women of childbearing age. Normally, cervical glands produce a clear mucous secretion that drains downward, mixing with bacteria, discarded vaginal cells, and Bartholin gland secretions at the opening of the vagina. These substances may (depending on how much mucus there is) turn the mucus a whitish color, and the discharge turns yellowish when exposed to air. There are times throughout the menstrual cycle that the cervical glands produce more mucus than others, depending on the amount of estrogen produced. This is normal.