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Vaginitis and Vaginal Infections

(continued)

When to Seek Medical Care for a Vaginal Infection continued...

Vaginal yeast infections, although uncomfortable, are usually not life-threatening. You should see your health care provider. In addition, seek care for any of the following: 

    • Foul-smelling or yellow vaginal discharge
    • Any stomach or back pain
    • Vomiting or fevers
    • If symptoms return within two months

Other pelvic conditions with symptoms similar to vaginal yeast infections need to be checked in a hospital's emergency department. Seek medical care if the following conditions develop:

    • If you have vaginal discharge associated with fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain or if you have vaginal discharge accompanied by vaginal bleeding that is not a normal menstrual period
    • Your symptoms have not improved in three days, a large amount of vaginal discharge is seen, or if initial symptoms worsen
    • You have greenish or large amounts of discharge or fever
    • You have been taking antifungal drugs for a yeast infection and you develop yellow skin, yellow eyes (the white part is yellow), or pale stools
    • Lesions or rash develops elsewhere (tender, red, pus-filled bumps, which can spread to the thighs and anus)
    • Dizziness develops

Exams and Tests for Vaginal Infections

To diagnose a vaginal infection, your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. Urine tests and samples of any discharge will likely be done.

  • You may be asked questions including the following: 
    • When did this condition begin? Has the discharge been the same throughout the month?
    • What does the discharge look like? What color and consistency? Is there an odor?
    • Do you have pain, itching, or burning?
    • Does your sexual partner, if you have one, have discharge from his penis? Do you have many sexual partners? Do you use condoms?
    • What helps relieve the discharge? Do you take frequent baths? Have you tried over-the-counter medications? Douching?
    • What other symptoms do you have?
    • What medications do you take for all conditions?
    • Have you changed detergents or soaps you use?
    • Do you often wear tight underwear or pants/jeans?
  • During the pelvic exam, the doctor will inspect your vaginal canal and cervix for any discharge or sores. The doctor will also check the size and location of the uterus and cervix. The doctor will assess if you have pain or tenderness on movement of the cervix and uterus, or in the areas next to the uterus, which correspond to the fallopian tubes and ovaries. 
  • During the vaginal exam, a speculum is introduced into the vagina to see the cervix. Culture-swabs will be taken of any discharge to determine if the infection is fungal (yeast), protozoan (trichomoniasis), or bacterial (bacterial vaginosis). Your health care provider can examine a sample of vaginal discharge under a microscope to detect the presence of the organisms associated with vaginal infections.
  • In some cases, a Pap test will be performed to exclude the possibility of cervical cancer. This test is sent to the laboratory, and results are usually obtained within one week.
  • A colposcopy or biopsy might be recommended if your cervix appears abnormal. Colposcopy uses a lighted microscope to get a magnified view of the surface of the cervix. In a biopsy, a tissue sample is taken for testing.
  • Certain blood tests can detect antibodies to the yeast-infection causing Candida albicans. There are also over-the-counter tests you can use at home.
  • If trichomoniasis is present, and confirmed by laboratory tests, your doctor may do more tests for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

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