Vaginal infections or vaginal infections include all diseases in which inflammation occurs in the vaginal area. The causes are varied and numerous, so a thorough gynecological examination is essential in order to be able to treat the disease in a targeted manner. However, the chances of recovery are good in Germany.
What are vaginal infections?
Vaginal infections are among the most common pathologies that lead patients to gynecologists. Various causes, including excessive intimate hygiene, mechanical overstimulation – the so-called honeymoon syndrome – and the use of antibiotics lead to a disruption in the vaginal flora. See deluxesurveillance for Hyperhidrosis Guide.
A healthy vaginal flora is primarily characterized by the number of lactic acid bacteria. These keep the natural acidic environment of the vagina in a pH range of 4 – 4.5 and thus prevent harmful germs from multiplying.
In a disturbed vaginal flora, harmful pathogens can multiply and trigger various inflammatory vaginal infections. The symptoms are varied and depend on the respective pathogen.
The most important pathogens of vaginal infections are briefly presented below. All, in excess, cause increased discharge, burning and/or itching of varying degrees, and swelling or redness.
The fishy smell of the discharge is typical of a bacterial vaginal infection, caused in particular by Gardnerella vaginalis. The most important triggers of viral vaginal infections are herpes simplex viruses and human papilloma viruses. Herpes simplex is shown by the blisters on the vagina known from cold sores.
Human papillomaviruses mostly cause benign genital warts, which tend to be visually disturbing and rarely cause symptoms. However, cell changes and the resulting cervical cancer can also occur.
Most vaginal infections are caused by the yeast Candida Albicans, which is characterized by cottage cheese-like discharge and painful urination.
If the vaginal infection is caused by protozoa, which can be found in the mucous membranes, the discharge is pungent and frothy. Another risk factor is the transmission of pathogens during sexual intercourse.
Typical & frequent vaginal infections
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis)
- Vaginal thrush (vaginal thrush)
- vaginal discharge
- Genital herpes (genital herpes)
- Chlamydia (chlamydial infection)
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Depending on the type and severity, vaginal infections can cause different symptoms. Bacterial vaginosis manifests itself primarily through skin irritations in the abdomen, such as pain, itching or redness. Accompanying this, a thin, whitish-grey discharge can be noticed.
There is also an unpleasant, sour-smelling intimate odor. The doctor can determine a significantly increased pH value of over 4.5 in amine vaginosis. A fungal infection of the vagina causes severe itching and burning in the vagina and surrounding genital area. Swelling and redness also occur.
In the area of the labia and clitoris, deposits or crusting can form, which occasionally smell unpleasant. A fungal infection also manifests itself as a yellowish-white or gray discharge from the vagina, which, however, is usually odorless. Viral vaginosis produces similar symptoms but takes longer. An infection with trichomonads is asymptomatic in 85 percent of cases.
Possible signs include vaginal discharge, painful urination and intense itching. Vaginal infections usually go away after a few days. The typical symptoms cause the affected women to feel very unwell. Normally, however, vaginosis is relatively harmless and can be treated easily. Long-term effects or chronic symptoms are unlikely.
Diagnosis & History
Based on the symptoms described, the gynecologist receives the first indications of the causative agent of the vaginal infection. In particular, a precise description of the observed discharge and sexual behavior before the first symptoms appear are important.
To diagnose a disturbed vaginal flora, define the pH value and reliably determine the trigger, the gynecologist takes a swab from the vagina and creates a bacterial and fungal culture. A precise examination of the vagina is also helpful, for example, in the case of an infection caused by protozoa, the swollen, highly sensitive vaginal mucosa is noticeable.
An infection with herpes simplex or human papilloma viruses is also reflected in the physical examination by the typical skin symptoms. The prognosis is usually good, only an infection with human papilloma viruses can lead to serious illnesses.
Vaginal infections do not normally cause any major complications. Bacterial vaginosis initially causes pain when urinating or during intercourse and can severely affect well-being. Chronic illnesses can result in mental health problems such as depression or inferiority complexes.
The greatest danger in bacterial vaginosis is gynecological inflammation. The external genital area, the vaginal entrance, the fallopian tubes and the mucous membrane of the cervix are particularly susceptible to infections. If a vaginal infection occurs during pregnancy, there is an increased risk of miscarriage. There is also a risk that those affected will infect their partner unnoticed and thereby become ill again.
When treating a vaginal infection, the risks come from inappropriate and improperly applied treatment measures. Excessive personal hygiene can in some cases aggravate the symptoms. The use of irritating care products can promote irritation and, in the worst case, lead to the infection spreading to other parts of the body. The use of antibiotics is associated with various side effects and interactions. Stomach pain, diarrhea or skin irritation, for example, are common.
When should you go to the doctor?
Vaginal infections make it necessary to go to the gynecologist at the latest when noticeable symptoms occur. Reasons for visiting a specialist include itching or burning in the vagina or pain. However, other possible symptoms of a vaginal infection are also a reason for those affected to consult a doctor. These include, for example, discharge, changed smells or changes in the consistency of the mucus. In principle, all changes in the vagina are considered a medical reason to see a gynaecologist.
In addition, the number of possible vaginal infections is large. Most of them are relatively symptom-free or only occasionally noticeable symptoms occur. Accordingly, even the smallest changes should be taken as an opportunity to have a check-up carried out. Also, most vaginal infections are harmless and can be easily treated.
However, a quick trip to the doctor is always advisable. On the one hand, this protects possible sex partners from infection. On the other hand, there are also infections that can damage the vaginal tissue over time. Bacterial infections, for example, can also migrate from the vagina. Co-infection of the uterus, for example, should be avoided as a matter of urgency.
Treatment & Therapy
The therapy of the vaginal infection is based on the identified pathogen and is mostly aimed at the affected person and their sexual partners. It is advisable to abstain from sexual intercourse until the symptoms have subsided.
It is also important to harmonize the vaginal flora by avoiding causative factors and, if necessary, supporting regeneration with suppositories containing lactic acid bacteria.
Bacterial vaginal infections and protozoa infections are treated with antibiotics given as tablets, vaginal creams, or suppositories. The bacterial infection is only treated in non-pregnant women if the patient suffers from symptoms, and always in pregnant women.
The patient can treat the infection with human papilloma viruses or herpes simplex with virostatic ointments or tablets. Medical treatment with trichloroacetic acid or laser therapy is only necessary in severe cases. Surgical removal of the affected skin areas is also possible.
Candida albicans is treated with antifungal drugs in the form of creams, suppositories, or tablets. From a homeopathic point of view, grapefruit seed extract is also recommended.
In order to prevent a vaginal infection, healthy intimate hygiene, caution in the choice of sexual partners and protected sexual intercourse are recommended. There is no 100% protection against human papilloma virus, so all girls should be vaccinated before having sexual intercourse for the first time. Regular gynecological checks also protect by checking the pH value of the vagina.
The physiological vaginal flora can be negatively influenced by many factors (e.g. environmental influences, sexual behavior, stress, diet). Aftercare should therefore aim to maintain the natural, physiological milieu of the vaginal flora in order to avoid reinfection. It is estimated that there is a recurrence rate of about 60 percent after vaginal infection.
For prophylaxis, preparations with lactobacilli in the form of vaginal suppositories or tablets can be administered. These should cause an increase in the physiological germ flora of the vagina. Said preparations should be administered over a period of at least four weeks. There are even recommendations that speak of a period of six to eight weeks.
Another approach to aftercare or prevention of recurrence is the physiological acidification of the vaginal pH value. The physiologically low pH value of around four should be reached/maintained here. There are lactic acid preparations in the form of tablets or suppositories. Since vaginal germs prefer a moist, warm environment, tight, airtight clothing in the intimate area should be avoided.
Excessive intimate hygiene is counterproductive, this could have an unfavorable effect on the pH value. It is advisable to change underwear daily and wash at higher temperatures. If panty liners are used, make sure they are changed regularly and use breathable goods.
You can do that yourself
Vaginal infections can be caused by fungi or bacteria and cause the uncomfortable symptoms. All vaginal infections are usually easily accessible to self-help by the woman. In all cases, however, the following applies: The diagnosis by the doctor must be clearly secured in advance. However, if the disease flares up again, self-help can also replace a visit to the doctor.
The following applies to most vaginal infections: They disturb the natural balance in the environment of the vaginal flora. Self-help is therefore primarily aimed at bringing this milieu back into the physiological range. Lactic acid is an important factor here. These can be inserted into the vagina in the form of tablets and suppositories. A normal tampon that has been dipped in natural yoghurt before being inserted offers natural help. It can also relieve itching, which is often associated with a vaginal infection, thanks to its cooling effect. The natural yoghurt can also be used for prophylaxis outside of the acute infection. It has a positive effect on the vaginal flora.
Hygiene is an important factor in vaginal infections, but it should never be overdone with harsh cleaning products. Mild cleaning with lukewarm water is sufficient. In the case of an acute infection, underwear should be changed daily and washed at the highest possible temperature. Cotton is better here than synthetic fibers.