Last Updated on Monday, 01 November 2010 17:32
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Inflammation of the vagina or vaginitis can occur as a result of bacterial or yeast infections, trichomoniasis, Chlamydia, viral infections and low oestrogen levels.
The symptoms of vaginitis may include a vaginal discharge with a foul odour, and itching or burning sensation in the vagina, abdominal discomfort, pain during urination or intercourse and light vaginal bleeding.
There are a several different kinds of vaginitis, each with their own causes, symptoms and treatments.
A number of bacteria normally grow in the vagina. The bacteria help maintain a healthy environment in the vagina and fight off more harmful organisms. Bacterial vaginitis is the most common type of vaginitis and occurs when one organism from normal bacteria outgrows the others, disrupting the natural balance within the vaginal environment.
Often, women who have bacterial vaginosis experience a greyish-white discharge that has a â€˜fishyâ€™ smelling odour. This odour may be more prominent following sexual intercourse.
Yeast infections are caused by fungi, the most common being Candida albicanus. When the flora of the vaginal environment changes, fungi that are normally present become overgrown.
Although yeast infections are generally not serious, they can be very uncomfortable. They often cause vaginal itching and a thick white curdled discharge that resembles cottage cheese. The discharge may also be watery.
Wearing underwear of synthetic material and tight fitting clothing may increase the risk of developing a yeast infection. Yeast infections can be caused by taking some antibiotics, which kill the â€˜friendlyâ€™ flora in the vagina. Women with diabetes also have an increased risk of developing yeast infections.
Trichomoniasis and other STIâ€™s
Several different sexually transmitted diseases can cause vaginitis. Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite and spreads through sexual contact. Women who have trichomoniasis sometimes experience a greenish-yellow frothy, foul smelling discharge.
Other sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, herpes simplex virus and HPV can cause irritation of the vagina. Herpes simplex viruses may cause a growth of painful ulcers or blisters within the vagina. The development of genital warts inside the vagina is also a symptom of some strains of HPV.
Low Oestrogen Levels
- Menopausal women or those whose ovaries have been removed may also experience vaginitis because of the changes in hormone levels. A drop in oestrogen may cause the vaginal lining to become dry and irritated.
- Some women develop vaginitis following the use of vaginal sprays, perfumed soap, scented detergents and spermicides that contain nonoxynol-9.
Vaginitis can be diagnosed using one or more of the following:
Medical history: The doctor may ask questions concerning symptoms and past vaginal infections or STDâ€™s.
Pelvic examination: During this procedure the doctor examines the genital area for any discharge or lesions.
Laboratory analysis: A doctor may collect samples of discharge and have them analysed in a lab to identify the cause of the vaginitis.
Next: Vaginitis Treatment