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Everything You Must Know About Vaginal Infections

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Most women may experience some other type of vaginal infection during their lifetime. Most often, they are due to improper hygiene and care. Vaginal infections can also be caused by sexually transmitted diseases. Vaginitis or inflammation of the vagina is very common. You may experience abnormal vaginal discharge, itching, pain or burning sensation and a foul odour in your genital region. Some women are at a higher risk of having vaginal infections than others (like diabetic patients on prolonged antibiotics and immunosuppressive medications). 

A normal, healthy vagina has some bacteria and yeast colonised in the vagina. These are present in harmony with each other and the human body. It helps to maintain normal vaginal pH but does not cause infection. However, certain things can change the environment in the vagina, leading to bacterial or yeast overgrowth and causing symptoms. You may also get an infection due to hormonal changes, excessive intake of some medicines, pregnancy and breastfeeding, application of cosmeceuticals, frequent and excessive washing, etc. 

Bacterial vaginosis is a condition caused by an overgrowth of normal vaginal flora. Most commonly, this presents clinically with increased vaginal discharge that has a fish-like odor. The discharge itself is typically thin and either gray or white. Untreated BV can lead to increased risk of STIs, including HIV and pregnancy complications.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Also Read: Does Boric Acid Make You Tighter? Evidence-Based Insights Into Vaginal Health

Common types of vaginal infections

There are three common types of vaginal infections. Let us know more about them: 

Yeast infection

This is caused by a fungus known as candida. This lives in your body in small numbers, including in the vagina and is typically harmless. An overgrowth of candida causes vaginal infection. If you have frequent or chronic high blood sugar and lowered immunity because of a medical condition such as HIV or AIDS, excess humidity and improper hygiene, then there is a higher risk of vaginal yeast infections. In this condition, you may experience a thick, white, odourless discharge with a cottage cheese appearance along with vaginal itching and redness of the vulva and vagina.

Bacterial vaginosis

Your vagina is the home of some ”friendly” bacteria called lactobacilli. While these are beneficial and help in regulating the microflora and pH in the vagina, when the number of these bacteria lowers, it can trigger a condition called bacterial vaginosis (BV). If pH becomes alkaline, then BV precipitates. In case of this infection, too, a woman may notice thick, whitish or clear discharge, which is a slightly itchy and burning sensation. There may be a thin, frothy discharge with a fishy odour in the genitals, especially during intercourse.


This particular vaginal infection is sexually transmitted. It is caused by a single-celled parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis. It is then passed from one partner to another partner during intercourse and can even spread through toilet seats used by persons harbouring these parasites.

The symptoms of this infection are similar to other vaginal infections, including burning, irritation, redness and swelling of the vulva, with a thin foul smell of yellow-grey or greenish vaginal discharge-. Some women also experience pain during urination.

Main risk factors include- intercourse without a condom with a person infected and multiple partners.

Yeast infections are especially common during pregnancy because hormone changes can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina. Common yeast infection symptoms include vaginal itching and a white, thick discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Getting medical attention is essential as it may impact the pregnancy and the fetus.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D

Some other vaginal infections are as follows:

Chlamydia vaginitis

It is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause inflammation of the vagina, uterus and even the fallopian tubes!!. It may or may not cause vaginal discharge and once the infection spreads, you may notice bleeding between periods or after vaginal intercourse or painful intercourse; in men, urethral discharge and testicular pain can occur. Sexually active women up to age 26 should get tested annually for chlamydia as the symptoms may not always be noticeable and leaving it untreated may do a fair amount of damage to fertility (miscarriages, pelvic inflammatory diseases etc.). 


Gonorrhoea is a highly contagious sexually transmitted infection that may show symptoms such as vaginal discharge, pain during urination and vaginal sex. Women who have gonorrhoea often also have chlamydia and require treatment for both conditions.

Viral vaginitis

Most viruses (herpes genitalis) that directly affect the vagina are spread through sexual contact. Symptoms include pain in the genital area from lesions or sores, burning sensation without any lesion is also fairly common and constant lower back ache also needs evaluation to rule herpes genitalis. Most of the time, you can see them, but they can also be hidden and seen only during an examination by your dermatologist/gynaecologist.

Diagnosis of vaginal infections

To diagnose a vaginal infection, a doctor may ask you about the symptoms you experience and physically examine your vulvar area and vagina; he or she will take a swab of the vagina or the skin outside the vagina and send it for a lab test. Other urine and blood tests may be advised as needed. Once the results come in, your doctor will guide you through the treatment.

Also Read: Understanding and Managing Vaginal Boils: An Essential Guide

Treatment for vaginal infections

In case of yeast or bacterial infections, people can be treated with antifungal medicines. These are both oral or creams which can be applied to the infected area. However, you must be careful when taking these medicines. People should be careful when taking these medicines, always use the advised dose and never self-medicate. Individuals who have infections like chlamydia and gonorrhoea may have to take antibiotics and your dermatologist/gynaecologist will ask you to refrain from sex until a week after finishing this medication. It is important to remember that all of these conditions can be treated, but you must consult a doctor as soon as you notice symptoms of vaginal infections. Delay in treatment in some cases might even cost you to lose fertility.

Also Read: Augmentin 625

Prevention of vaginal infections

Although there are certain triggers of allergies and infections, some other lifestyle factors can reduce the chances of getting a vaginal infection to a great extent. Listed below are a few tips every woman must follow:

  • Avoid using scented products in and around your vagina. 
  • Do not douche.
  • Do not wear damp or tight underwear and clothing.
  • Always wear cotton underwear, wash and change them regularly.
  • Make sure you change non-reusable sanitary products every 4–8 hours.
  • Always wipe your vagina front-to-back. This prevents the germs from the anus from coming in contact with the vagina.
  • If you are allergic to latex, avoid using latex lubricants and condoms.
  • Maintain menstrual hygiene protocols.
  • Follow safe sex practices.

Also Read: Discharge From Belly Button: Understanding Causes and Solutions


Vaginal infections can make you uncomfortable and hamper your daily life. It can occur to any woman at any age and timely treatment is very important. A doctor will be able to diagnose what is causing the symptoms and curate a treatment plan for you. It is also advised that every woman should see a gynaecologist annually to ensure that they are healthy and this will also help detect vaginal infections or other related issues at an early stage.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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