How to cope with vaginitis

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Sooner or later, most women have some kind of vaginal infection, known as vaginitis. Dr. Jennifer Wu, an OB/GYN with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, explains the symptoms and treatment.

How to cope with vaginitis Have you ever experienced any kind of vaginal discomfort, discharge or swelling? If you’re like most women you have. The medical term for this is called vaginitis and it’s often secondary to an infection. The good news is that in most cases it’s easily treatable. Here’s what you need to know:
  • The most common vaginal infections are yeast, or an overgrowth of bacteria such as gardnerella or trichomonas. While yeast infections or gardnerella are not contagious, trichomonas is. Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease. All of these vaginal infections are uncomfortable. Some women will feel mildly uncomfortable while other women will be so uncomfortable they can hardly sit down.
  • Some common causes of vaginitis such as yeast are antibiotics, because taking antibiotics can cause a ph change in your vagina. Things like douching can also alter the PH in your vagina, causing an infection. Trichomoniasis, on the other hand, is sexually transmitted. One way to prevent it is to us a condom when engaging in sexual intercourse.
  • One important note about douching. Women do not have to douche. Some women feel more comfortable douching after their menstrual cycle. But there is no medical reason that you have to douche. The down side of douching is that it can alter the ph balance of your vagina and you can get an overgrowth of one type of bacteria leading to bacterial vaginitis.
  • If you think you might have vaginitis the first thing you should do is see your gynecologist to determine the type of vaginitis you have and figure out the best treatment. Your doctor will diagnose you to make sure you don’t’ have a more serious infection. To determine what kind of infection you have your doctor will conduct an exam, and may do some swabs or cultures.
  • Treatments for yeast are antifungal medication in the form of a pill or a cream that is applied in the vagina. If you have an overgrowth of bacteria vaginous you may be treated with oral antibiotics or with an antibiotic gel that is applied in the vagina and if you have trichomoniasis you will most likely be treated with oral antibiotics.
  • Once treated you should feel better within 24 to 36 hours. However, it’s recommended not to have sex during that time as sexual intercourse may increase the swelling and the irritation.
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Hi, there. I'm Denise Richardson, for howdini.com. Sooner or later, virtually every woman gets some kind of vaginitis, whether it's a yeast infection or one of the several other conditions. Each form has its own set of facts to know, and here to help us sort them out is gynecologist Dr. Jennifer Wu. Dr. Wu, we thank you for being with us. So vaginitis is an umbrella term for inflammation?

 

Yes. It's just a general term for inflammation of the vagina. It's often secondary to infection, though. And the most common infections are infections with yeast, with an overgrowth of gardnerella, or with trichomonas.

 

All right. So how does a woman know that she has vaginitis?

 

Usually patients will complain of irritation, discharge, inflammation, swelling.

 

And then you rush off to your gynecologist.

 

They usually do come see me, yes.

 

And when they come to see you, what do you say, how they should be treated?

 

We'll often do an exam, and do some swabs or cultures. Sometimes it's very obvious that it is yeast or something else. And we'll often then go into the causes of how this patient got this vaginitis.

 

What about contagion? Is it contagious?

 

The contagious vaginitis would involve trichomonas, which is a sexually transmitted disease that can be passed between a patient and her partner.

 

And the various treatments that you would have?

 

If a patient has a yeast infection, she'll often be treated with an anti-fungal medication. This can be a pill, or it can be a cream that's applied in the vagina. If it's an overgrowth of bacteria, called bacterial vaginosis, she can be treated with oral antibiotics, or with, again, an antibiotic gel that's applied in the vagina. If it's trichomonas, it can be treated with oral antibiotics also.

 

And how long does it take for treatment to work?

 

Patients will usually start feeling better within 24 to 36 hours. I usually recommend they don't have sex during that time, because they're very uncomfortable, and I think that sexual intercourse may increase the inflammation and the irritation.

 

Talk about the level of discomfort there.

 

Well, it really is a range. Some patients are mildly uncomfortable. Little bit of discharge, and that's their vaginitis. Other patients come to you, and they are so uncomfortable, they're having trouble sitting down.

 

Now what would you say to patients to help them prevent getting it?

 

The most common types of vaginitis-- yeast, bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas-- they can be prevented in a variety of ways. Antibiotic use is a common cause of yeast infections, so patients may need to ask their doctor for an anti-fungal medication, when they're being treated with antibiotics. As far as bacterial vaginosis, oftentimes when you're changing the pH of the vagina, then you're more prone to an overgrowth of bacteria. So things like douching can alter the vaginal pH. If you find that you're having frequent bacteria vaginosis infections, you may want to avoid douching altogether. Trichomonas is sexually transmitted, so good condom use can help prevent that.

 

Let's talk for a second about douching. Do women have to douche?

 

Women do not have to douche. Some women feel more comfortable douching after their menses, but there really is no medical reason that you have to douche.

 

If you think you have vaginitis, if you think you're having what symptoms, should you come to the doctor? Usually patients who are having discharge, irritation, inflammation, they should go see their doctor, to get a diagnosis and make sure it's not a more serious infection.

 

Doctor Wu, thank you so much for sharing such valuable information. I'm Denise Richardson, for howdini.com.

meet theexpert
  • Dr. Jennifer Wu

    Dr. Jennifer Wu Obstetrician-Gynecologist Dr. Jennifer Wu is a practicing board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist in New York City. She is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the American Medical Association and the New York Country Medical Society. more about this expert »

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