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Vaginal infections can have bacterial (bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis), yeast (Candidiasis), or viral origin (herpes), and affect female genitals, by causing more or less serious problems. This represents not only a symptom of a serious health condition, but also a sense of embarrassment for the affected woman.
The most common vaginal infections are:
Vulvovaginal candidiasis is a common infection caused by a yeast fungus (Candida Albicans), that normally lives in several parts of our body (mouth, vagina, intestinal tract), characterized by intense perspiration and humidity that, under certain conditions, can become pathogenic. Candida vaginal infections are very common in teenage girls, fertile women and sexually active women. Moreover, they also affect little girls and men asymptomatically.
The main causes of this infection are: psychophysical stress, diabetes, treatments with broad spectrum antibiotics in high doses. The latter causes a shortage of probiotics, “friendly” bacteria that prevent the natural proliferation of these fungi. The symptoms of vulvovaginal candidiasis are: heavy white curd-like vaginal discharge, itching, irritation and/or burning in the vagina and vulva, redness, pain during urination and sometimes white patches on the skin of the vaginal area. In most cases, Candidiasis can be prevented by keeping the genital area dry and clean.
It is an infection caused by a microorganism, Chlamydia Trachomatis. It can be transmitted during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex and through maternal fetal transmission.
The most common symptoms are abnormal vaginal discharge and genital itching. In most cases, the infection affects sexually active women, with peak incidence around age 20; in 75% of cases it is asymptomatic. For this reason, it often happens that it is not treated, sometimes leading to serious consequences. In order to prevent this infection, it is recommended to make proper use of a condom, during every sexual intercourse, and to have specific and regular gynaecological exams, even when it seems not to be necessary.
The transmission of the pathogenic organism is generally caused by sexual contact, but the infection can also occur indirectly, through contact with contaminated clothes or objects, such as towels and underwear. The problem mainly affects women aged between 16 and 45 years, due to both a greater exposition to risk factors and to the presence in the vaginal epithelium of glucose, a substance that is a fundamental substratum for Trichomonas vaginalis proliferation. The symptoms of Trichomoniasis are various and often annoying, they include vaginal discharge with an intense odour, vaginal itching or irritation, painful sexual intercourse, vaginal bleeding. However, most men affected by Trichomoniasis do not have any symptoms.
Gardnerella vaginalis, as Candida albicans, is a bacterium that normally lives in the intestinal flora. When the pH is altered, lactobacilli – the bacteria defending the vaginal ecosystem – decrease and the infection appears. Risk factors are: unprotected sex with different partners, poor or bad intimate hygiene, abuse of antibiotics, use of intrauterine devices for contraception, pregnancy and genetic predisposition. The typical symptom of this infection is a strong and unpleasant odour of “rotten fish” that also represents one of the ways to diagnose the disease by the “fish odour test”. Other symptoms are: vaginal discharge, white-grey secretions, burning during sexual intercourse and during urination. However, this infection often appears without symptoms. In these cases, the practices for prevention recommended by the gynecologist are:
- Avoid wearing underwear made of synthetic fabrics and tight clothing
- Change often the sanitary napkin during menstruations
- Always use a condom during sexual intercourses, even if you have sex with non-occasional partners
- Sexual rest during the therapy prescribed by the gynecologist
- Use personal care accessories without sharing them with other people
- Do physical exercise and follow a healthy and balanced diet
- Avoid too frequent washing, in order not to destroy the body’s natural defenses
Genital herpes is a contagious disease,caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), the same pathogen responsible for the common labial herpes, which infects the skin and the genital mucous membranes and, sometimes, even the area around the opening of the rectum. The virus is transmitted by unprotected sex with an infected person. The risk of contracting the infection increases in case of reduction in immune defenses, stress, hormonal imbalance and impairment of the immune system.
The first symptom is small red blisters on the genitals or the anus, causing local itching, burning and redness. Medicines used to treat this virus include antiviral creams for the affected areas and oral antiviral treatments such as acyclovir, even if no pharmacological treatment has been proven to kill definitively this virus.
The role of the gynecologist is always fundamental, especially when the diseases tend to relapse.
These pages have a purely informative character. Whatever the case, they are not intended to, and cannot, replace the GYNAECOLOGIST. If you experience any of the symptoms here described, please refer to your own gynecologist!