Tips for a vaginal health
Many conditions can affect the vagina. Here’s a look at some of the main ones.
Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina resulting from an infection. It can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
There are different types of vaginitis, depending on the cause. The most common types include:
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV).BV is a bacterial infection that stems from an overgrowth of healthy vaginal bacteria. This can happen when something changes the vagina’s pH level, such as douching. BV isn’t a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but sex with a new partner or multiple partners can increase someone’s risk for developing it. BV may cause white or gray discharge, but it doesn’t always cause symptoms.
- Yeast infection.A vaginal yeast infection happens when there’s an overgrowth of a type of yeast calledCandida albicansin the vagina. Vaginal yeast infections are very common. Symptoms may include itching, inflammation, and a thick, white discharge that has the appearance of cottage cheese. Yeast infections can usually be treated using over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medication.
- Trichomoniasis.Often referred to as “trich,” trichomoniasis is an STI caused by a parasite calledTrichomonas vaginalis. It often causes a green or yellow discharge with a fishy odor, as well as burning and redness. It’s treated with antibiotics. To avoid reinfection, both partners should be treated.
Vaginismus causes involuntary contractions of the vaginal muscles. The muscle contractions make penetration painful, if not impossible. It often begins when someone first attempts to have intercourse.
There’s no single cause, but it’s often linked to past sexual trauma or emotional factors. For some, the fear of painful sex due to vaginismus can make the muscles contract even more, leading to more pain.
STIs are transmitted through sexual contact and can affect the vagina and cause symptoms ranging from discharge to genital warts or sores. Some STIs don’t cause any symptoms and are only found during routine screening. Common STIs include:
Vaginal atrophy causes the tissues of the vagina to shrink and thin, which can narrow the canal and reduce its elasticity. It’s more common during menopause. During menopause, estrogen production drops, reducing the amount of vaginal fluids and interfering with the vagina’s pH.
Atrophy can also happen earlier in life due to other causes of decreased estrogen, such as breastfeeding, ovary removal, and certain medications. It can cause vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, and irritation.
Vaginal prolapse happens when the vagina stretches or expands, protruding onto other organs. It’s rare that it involves the vagina alone. The tissue that supports the uterus usually stretches as well, causing it to weaken during straining.
Vaginal childbirth, frequent pressure on the abdomen from obesity or strained bowel movements, and menopause can increase risk for prolapse.
There are different types of prolapse that can involve the vagina, including:
- cystocele, which involves the front of the vagina and the bladder
- rectocele, which involves the back of the vagina and rectum
- enterocele, which involves the front of the vaginal wall and small bowel
Vaginal prolapse doesn’t always cause symptoms. But in some cases, it can cause a sense of fullness or heaviness in the pelvis. Others may feel a pulling sensation in the area.
Symptoms usually go away when someone lies down and might get worse when standing, having a bowel movement, or lifting something. Passing urine when sneezing, laughing, or coughing is also possible.
Vaginal cancer is very rare. There are different types of vaginal cancer, but the most common is squamous cell carcinoma that starts in the lining of the vagina. In its early stages, it may not cause any symptoms. But if it spreads, it can cause unusual vaginal bleeding, discharge, or a lump in the vagina.
Video: TIPS for Vaginal Health
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