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Vaginal Infections

What Are Vaginal Infections?

Vaginal infections, also known as vaginitis, are any of a collection of infections that cause vaginal inflammation. When the vagina’s normally healthy ratio of abnormal and normal bacteria becomes unbalanced, vaginal infections can develop.

The most common vaginal infections include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis — With this condition, anaerobic bacteria, which is usually found in the vagina, over-accumulates. Untreated bacterial vaginosis can lead to problems during pregnancy and increase the risk for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — Trichomoniasis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, three STIs, are caused by parasites or bacteria spread by partners during sexual activity.
  • Yeast infections — While yeast is always present in the vagina, problems can develop when the fungus Candida overgrows.

Any woman can get a vaginal infection, but common causes include:

  • Hormonal changes, particularly during pregnancy
  • Medication use, particularly antibiotics or steroids
  • Sexual activity or having an STI
  • Use of hygiene products, including bubble bath, douches, and vaginal sprays or deodorants

Symptoms

Because there are a variety of vaginal infections, symptoms can vary depending on the type of infection present. However, most vaginal infections result in the same collection of symptoms, including:

  • Discharge — A gray/white discharge with a foul odor can be indicative of a bacterial vaginosis, while a yeast infection may cause a thick, white discharge. Yellow/green discharge could be a sign of trichomoniasis.
  • Irritation — Uncomfortable burning or itching can develop in the vagina or vulva.
  • Odor — Odor may fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and can vary in intensity. 
  • Pain — Pain while urinating or during intercourse is common with vaginal infections.

Treatment Options

Treatment for vaginal infections varies, depending on the type of infection present. Doctors will often perform a physical exam and collect samples to properly diagnose the condition before recommending one of these medical treatments:

  • Creams or suppositories — Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal cream, as well as antifungal suppositories, may be recommended to treat yeast infections. Antibiotic creams can be prescribed to help treat other forms of bacterial vaginosis.
  • Injections — Injected antibiotics can be used for STIs, particularly gonorrhea.
  • Oral medications — Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial vaginosis and chlamydia, and oral antifungal medications may be prescribed for yeast infections. Anti-parasite and antibiotic medications may be prescribed for trichomoniasis.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of a vaginal infection, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat vaginal infections.