Navigating Vaginitis: Your Guide from About Women Ob-Gyn in Northern Virginia
Sure, we get it: reading about vaginitis might not be your first choice for how to spend a few minutes of your lovely day here in Northern Virginia. But here at About Women Ob-Gyn, it’s our mission to serve your lifetime women’s healthcare needs at our offices in Woodbridge, Lorton, and Stafford. That means that in addition to helping you understand the joyful and pleasant aspects of your women’s health care journey, we sometimes have to touch on some of the more unpleasant and not-so-fun-to-talk-about health issues that women can experience.
Vaginitis is one of them, and since you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume this is already something you wanted or needed to know about, right? So, here’s an overview of some of the basic vaginitis facts you need and information about what to do if you believe you are experiencing any vaginitis symptoms. We’ll start with the basics.
What is Vaginitis?
Let’s keep it simple: vaginitis is a condition that can occur when any of a number of factors throw off the balance of the “environment” in your intimate area. When all is well, you’ll have a natural balance of bacteria down there that keeps everything healthy and comfortable, but when that natural balance gets out of tune, that’s when some discomfort and other unpleasant symptoms can occur.
Who Can Get Vaginitis?
Guess what? Vaginitis doesn’t play favorites — it can show up in women at any age or life stage. Whether you’re a teen, a grown-up, or a seasoned lady, you’re not immune. If you’re feeling some itchiness or burning or notice unusual discharge or an unfamiliar scent down there, it might be time to reach out for a chat.
Causes of Vaginitis
Frequently, vaginitis comes from infectious organisms that, like the good bacteria that can help keep us healthy when they’re in the right balance, prefer to grow in the warm, moist areas of our bodies. But germs are not always the cause. Here’s a sneak peek at the types of vaginitis you might run into:
- Yeast Infections: Ever met candida? It’s a type of fungus that’s always around, but the problems come up when it overgrows. If candida decides to flourish in the vagina, it can lead to symptoms including itching and a discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
- Bacterial Bliss Gone Bad (aka Bacterial Vaginosis): Sometimes, the good bacteria take a break and the not so friendly ones decide to overstay their welcome. This can result in an unpleasant odor and some discomfort.
- Tricky Trichomoniasis: Say hello to an unwanted guest! Trichomoniasis is a parasite causing itching, redness, and an unwelcome discharge. It can be spread through sexual contact.
- Vaginal Viruses: You may be more familiar with the types of viruses that can cause colds, flu, and other respiratory disease or infect the digestive system or other parts of the body. There are viruses that can cause vaginitis, as well, including sexually transmitted viruses, such as herpes (HSV) and the human papilloma virus (HPV, which your doctor tests for when you have a pap smear).
- Noninfectious Nuisance: Products such as scented soaps may be great for getting your day off to an invigorating start, and snug-fitting pants can be flattering to the appearance, but both are also examples of noninfectious factors that can cause irritation in the genital area.
The different causes of vaginitis tend to have different symptoms. Those with yeast infections, for example, may experience itching and redness in the genital area; a thick, white discharge; or painful urination.
Discharges from bacterial vaginitis, in contrast, tend to be thin and white or thick and gray or green. The discharge may also have a fishy odor.
Although trichomoniasis may sometimes have no symptoms, this parasitic infection can cause itching; burning; discharge of a frothy, foul-smelling, greenish-yellow fluid; painful sex; light bleeding (especially after sex); burning with urination; or abdominal pain.
Herpes infections can cause painful sores in the genital area. HPV may cause painless warts, but some infected people do not have warts.
Vaginitis caused by noninfectious irritation can cause symptoms similar to those of bacterial or viral infections, including discomfort during sex, fluid discharge, and itching and soreness. The symptoms’ similarity is an important reason to contact your provider to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Fighting Back Against Vaginitis: It’s Your Move!
First things first: if things feel a bit off down there, don’t ignore it because with effective treatments available, there’s no need to try just to live with the discomfort, and some infections that cause vaginitis can lead to bigger problems down the line if not properly treated. Our doors are open in Woodbridge, Lorton, and Stafford, and our team is ready to help those experiencing vaginitis symptoms by diagnosing the cause and offering the right treatment.
The type of treatment that will help depends on the underlying cause. Antibiotics are available to treat vaginitis caused by yeasts, bacteria, or the trichomoniasis parasite. For vaginitis caused by viruses such as HSV and HPV, antiviral drugs are available to help control the condition. Sexual partners of those infected with these viruses or trichomoniasis may need treatment, as well. Your women’s health care provider here at About Women Ob-Gyn can fill you in on the essential details.
Prevention Game: Your Winning Strategies
- Cotton Comfort: Opting for comfy cotton underwear and avoiding tight clothing can help prevent infectious and noninfectious vaginitis.
- Gentle Care: Choose mild, unscented soap when washing the genital area. Fragrances and added chemicals can cause irritation, which in turn may make infections more likely.
- Stay Dry: Swap wet swimsuits or sweaty workout gear for dry clothes pronto. Bacteria adore warm, damp places.
- Ditch the Douche: Douching can actually disrupt the natural harmony of the vaginal environment.
Final Words of Wisdom
Although this short article cannot cover everything there is to know about vaginitis and its causes, prevention, symptoms, and treatment, we hope we have given you a quick and friendly overview that will help you become more attuned to what your body tells you and more aware of when to seek help from your women’s health care provider here at About Women Ob-Gyn.
Trust your intuition. Any time you’re feeling uncomfortable or things seem a bit off, don’t hesitate to connect with us at About Women Ob-Gyn. We’re here in Woodbridge, Lorton, and Stafford, ready to guide you back to feeling your best in the heart of Northern Virginia.