Vaginitis is the swelling or discomfort caused by vaginal infections in females. It is commonly caused by certain microorganisms – parasites like trichomonas, yeasts like candida or certain bacteria. Some vaginal infections are transmitted through sexual contact, but not others such as candidiasis (yeast infections). They are a frequent cause of distress and discomfort in adult women.
What are the symptoms?
Vaginitis is characterised by a yellowish-white discharge from the vagina, irritating and sometimes itching. The character of the discharge or pain differs according to the causative agent. In case of bacterial vaginosis, the discharge is thin and has a fishy smell. Trichomoniasis is characterised by heavy yellow or grey discharge, discomfort during intercourse, vaginal smell and painful urination. Yeast or candida infection has a thick curdy white discharge, which stick to the vagina.
How is the diagnosis of vaginitis made?
The cause of vaginitis cannot be determined solely on the basis of symptoms or a physical examination. Laboratory tests that allow a microscopic examination of the vaginal discharge are required for a correct diagnosis.
What is the treatment?
Vaginitis should be treated with an appropriate course of antibiotics. It is very important to treat the male partner even if he does not have symptoms, otherwise the infection keeps recurring in the woman. If the full treatment is not taken, the infection can recur. In case of trichomoniasis, it is preferable to eliminate the parasite. Metronidazole is the best drug for the treatment of trichomoniasis. People taking this drug should avoid taking alcohol as a severe reaction with nausea and vomiting can occur. For candida infection, the doctor may prescribe tablets that may need to be placed in the vagina (pessaries).
How can it be prevented?
Condoms and diaphragms may be helpful in preventing the spread of trichomoniasis. Spermicides or medicines that kill sperms are not very effective in reducing the risk of these diseases. In fact the frequent use of the spermicides (more than three times a week) may cause vaginal inflammation (chemical vaginitis). Maintaining good personal hygiene is important. In case of diabetics, who are prone to the vaginal yeast infection, the control of blood sugar is important.