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Vaginal Infections and Other Concerns

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Updated April 06, 2014

Most women experience vaginal problems at some point in their life. Three common vaginal issues women deal with are vaginal yeast infection, trichomoniasis, and bacterial vaginosis.

Vaginal Yeast Infections

Yeast is the most common cause of vaginal infection. A fungus causes vaginal yeast infections, which occur inside the vagina and in the vulvar area that surrounds the vagina. Three out of four women have at least one vaginal yeast infection during their lifetimes. The symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include vaginal itching; a thick, white vaginal discharge that may look like cottage cheese; pain during sexual intercourse; redness; burning; soreness; swelling; and general vaginal irritation. Not every woman experiences all these possible symptoms of vaginal yeast infection. Many women frequently experience yeast infections, so they are familiar with their symptoms and the course of treatment recommended for them. But if this is the first time you are having such symptoms, it's important to see your doctor to get a formal diagnosis and rule out other possibilities.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is an sexually transmitted infection (STI) and the most common curable STI. The time between exposure to trichomoniasis and the onset of symptoms is from 5 to 28 days. While some women don't experience any symptoms, other women have symptoms such as a yellowish-greenish vaginal discharge, a foul vaginal odor, pain during sexual intercourse, pain during urination, vaginal itching and general irritation, and rarely pelvic pain. If you suspect you may have trichomoniasis, you should discontinue sexual intercourse and see your doctor immediately. If your doctor diagnoses trichomoniasis, your sexual partner(s), should be diagnosed and receive treatment. Sexual intercourse should not resume until both you and your partner are treated and symptom-free.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV is the most common cause of vaginal discharge in women during their reproductive years. It is not an infection. Rather, BV develops when the normal balance of bacteria that colonize in the vagina gets thrown off by overgrowth. While there is not a definitive answer about what causes BV, a few factors are known to raise risk including having a new or multiple sexual partners, using vaginal douches, having an IUD, and failure to practice safe sex by not using a condom during every act of sexual intercourse. The most common symptom of BV a fish-like vaginal odor, as well as an abnormal vaginal discharge that is white or gray and that can be either watery or foamy.

Sources:

Bacterial Vaginosis; Women's Health.gov; http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/bacterial-vaginosis.cfm; accessed 06/16/09.

Vaginal Yeast Infections; Women's Health.gov; http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/vaginal-yeast-infections.cfm; accessed 06/17/09.

Trichomoniasis; Women's Health.gov; http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/trichomoniasis.cfm; accessed 06/17/09.

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