Vaginal infections can be unpleasant, painful and stressful, especially when you’re unsure about what kind of infection it is. The truth is, there are lots of different types of vaginal infections that you could develop, and each one is determined by the kind of bacteria, fungus, parasite or virus that is growing in your vagina. Some are easy to get rid of, while others are more difficult.
Do I have a vaginal infection?
How do you know if you have a vaginal infection and what kind of infection it is? You can usually tell by the symptoms you’re experiencing. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common symptoms of each kind of infection to help you identify which one you may have. Remember, you should always seek a professional opinion if you believe you have an infection, so book an appointment with your doctor.
Bleeding between periods and pain during sex
If you are experiencing pain during sex or when you go for a wee, or you’re bleeding irregularly in between periods, you may have Chlamydia. Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK. According to Bupa, around seven out of 10 women don’t experience any symptoms of this infection. This is why it’s so important to have regular STI tests, particularly when you change sexual partners. If left untreated, Chlamydia can lead to further health problems, such as infertility and problems in pregnancy.
Fishy smelling, grey discharge
If the above describes your symptoms, then you may have Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). BV is a bacterial infection that’s caused by an imbalance of the bacteria in your vagina. It isn’t considered an STI, but regularly changing sexual partners can trigger it and it can be passed between female sexual partners. You may also contract BV if you smoke, use scented products around the vaginal area or have an intrauterine device (IUD) fitted.
Vaginal itching and thick white discharge
These symptoms tend to be signs of a yeast infection, or Thrush. Thrush is caused by an excess amount of yeast in the vagina. You may be experiencing soreness, itchiness and irritation around your vagina. You may also have a thick discharge that has a similar consistency to cottage cheese.
Vaginal sores and headaches
If you have sores and blisters around your vaginal area, then you may have Genital Herpes. Genital Herpes is caused by the Herpes simplex virus. Currently, there isn’t a cure for herpes - once the virus is in your body, it stays there. This does mean that it can lie dormant but flare ups can occur if you’re stressed, tired or run down. Other symptoms can include headaches and a fever.
Itchiness and yellow frothy discharge
If these symptoms are similar to what you’re experiencing, you may have Trichomoniasis. This is an STI that’s caused by a parasite. You can only contract this parasite through sexual contact with another infected person. You might find that your vulva is sore and itchy and it may be painful to go for a wee however up to half of women may not have any symptoms at all.
How to get rid of a vaginal infection
Treatment will depend on the type of infection that you have. Below, we’ve explored how you can treat your infection and how to prevent it from returning.
How to treat a vaginal bacterial infection
For a bacterial or parasitic infection, such as Chlamydia or Trichomoniasis, your doctor will advise a suitable course of treatment for you. For some bacterial infections, such as BV, there are specially designed gels that you can apply at home to clear the infection up.
For Thrush, you may need to use an antifungal cream, which is usually applied directly to the vulva. Alternatively, you may be prescribed a pessary by your doctor. This is a tablet that is put inside the vagina to bring the yeast levels back down to a normal range.
If you believe that you have any of the infections that we’ve mentioned above, you should book an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to advise your next steps.
How to avoid vaginal infections
There are some steps that you can take to avoid getting a vaginal infection again in the future.
Firstly, to reduce your risk of Thrush and BV, you should avoid using scented products, such as toilet paper, tampons, pads, body wash, soap and deodorant, in such a sensitive area as your vagina. These products could irritate the area and you may be more open to infection. Instead, choose a soap-free wash foam that is gentle on the area.
Some of the infections we’ve mentioned are STIs, which means they’re passed from person to person by sexual contact. To avoid contracting an STI, you should always use a condom, particularly with a new sexual partner. You should also have regular STI tests to ensure that you don’t have an infection, especially if you’re not showing any symptoms.