Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Most women experience minor vaginal problems from time to time. These problems can be related to menstrual cycles, sex, infection, birth control methods, aging, medicines, or changes after pregnancy.

A change in your normal vaginal discharge may be the first sign of a vaginal problem. Changes in urination, such as having to urinate more frequently or a burning feeling when you urinate, also may be a symptom of a vaginal problem.

Conditions that may cause a change in your normal vaginal discharge include:

Infections of the vagina, such as a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, human papillomavirus (HPV), or herpes.
Infection of the cervix (cervicitis).
An object in the vagina, such as a forgotten tampon.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Various sex practices, such as oral-to-vaginal and anal-to-vaginal contact.
Vaginal medicines or douching.

Vaginal infections
The presence or excess growth of yeast cells, bacteria, or viruses can cause a vaginal infection. A vaginal infection may occur when there is a change in the normal balance of organisms in your vagina.

The three most common types of vaginal infections are:

Candida vulvovaginitis (yeast infections).
Bacterial infections (bacterial vaginosis).
Parasitic infections (trichomoniasis).

Common symptoms of vaginal infection include:

Increase or change in the vaginal discharge, including gray, green, or yellow discharge.
Vaginal redness, swelling, itching, or pain.
Vaginal odor.
Burning with urination.
Pain or bleeding with sex.
If you are pregnant and have vaginal symptoms, talk with your doctor about your symptoms before considering any home treatment measures. Some home treatment measures may not be appropriate, depending on the cause of your vaginal infection. Conditions such as bacterial vaginosis can affect your pregnancy, so it is important to talk with your doctor and be treated appropriately.

Vaginal infections may increase the risk for pelvic infections, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Vaginal or vulvar problems
Other vaginal or vulvar problems may occur from the use of birth control methods, the use of medicines, or aging, or as a result of changes after pregnancy. These problems include:

Vaginal prolapse, which may cause urination and bowel changes.
Retained tampon, birth control device, or foreign object. See how to remove an object from the vagina.

Vulvar or vaginal injury, such as landing on a metal bar such as on a bike or playground equipment or from an object in the vagina.

Vulvar pain (vulvodynia).

Noninfectious vaginitis. Examples of this include:
An allergic reaction or irritation from chemicals, such as those found in vaginal sprays, douches, or spermicides.

Hormone changes related to menopause, such as atrophic vaginitis.
Use of antibiotics and other medicines, which may change the balance of organisms in your vagina.

A young girl with unusual vaginal symptoms should be evaluated by her doctor to determine the cause. Vaginitis in a young girl may be caused by:

A ball of toilet paper in her vagina.
Pinworms that have spread from the anus to the vagina.
The spread of bacteria from an upper respiratory infection of the ears (otitis media) or throat (tonsillitis) to the vagina by her hands.
A young girl with vaginal symptoms must also be evaluated for possible sexual abuse.

Rashes, sores, blisters, or lumps in the vaginal or vulvar area
Many conditions can cause a rash, sore, blister, or lump in your vaginal area (vulva). One of the most common causes of a rash is genital skin irritation that may occur when soap is not rinsed off the skin or when tight-fitting or wet clothes rub against the skin. A sore, blister, or lump in your vaginal area may require a visit to your doctor.

Treatment of a vaginal problem depends on the cause of the problem, the severity of your symptoms, and your overall health condition.

Home Treatment
A vaginal infection may clear up without treatment in 2 or 3 days.

If you could be pregnant, do a home pregnancy test. Any pregnant woman with abnormal vaginal symptoms should talk with her doctor about her symptoms before considering using any home treatment measures or nonprescription medicines. For more information, see the topic Pregnancy-Related Problems.

Avoid sex so that irritated vaginal tissues can heal.
Do not scratch the vaginal area. Relieve itching with a cold water compress or cool baths. Warm baths may also relieve pain and itching.

Make sure that the cause of your symptoms is not a forgotten tampon or other foreign object. For more information, see how to remove an object in the vagina.

Wear loose-fitting, cotton clothing. Stay away from nylon and synthetics, because they hold heat and moisture close to the skin, which makes it easier for an infection to start. You may want to remove pajama bottoms or underwear when you sleep.

Do not douche unless your doctor tells you to.
If you have gone through menopause, try using a vaginal lubricant, such as Astroglide or Replens, to reduce irritation caused by having sex.

Vaginal yeast infections
If you have symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection and have been diagnosed and treated by your doctor for this condition in the past, you may want to try using a nonprescription medicine, such as tioconazole (for example, Vagistat), clotrimazole (for example, Gyne-Lotrimin), or miconazole (for example, Monistat) to treat your symptoms.

If your symptoms do not improve with home treatment in 2 or 3 days, contact your doctor. Vaginal symptoms that may be related to another type of vaginal infection or a cervical infection need to be evaluated.

Women who take the blood-thinning medicine warfarin (Coumadin) and use a nonprescription vaginal yeast-fighting medicine, such as Monistat, may have increased bruising and abnormal bleeding. Consult with your doctor before using a yeast-fighting medicine if you take warfarin.

The following tips may help you prevent a vaginal infection.

If you think your frequent vaginal infections may be related to using a diaphragm, spermicidal foam or jelly, or condoms, discuss other birth control options with your doctor.

Wipe from front to back
after using the toilet, to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the vagina.

Wash the vaginal area once a day with plain water or a mild, nonperfumed soap. Do not use bubble bath. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.

Change tampons at least 3 times a day during your period, or alternate tampons with pads. Remember to remove the last tampon used during your period.

Wear cotton underwear and avoid clothes that fit tightly, such as tight-fitting jeans. Cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing help prevent the vaginal area from staying warm and moist, which can promote the growth of yeast cells. Tight-fitting clothes may cause skin irritation leading to a rash.

Remove wet bathing suits and exercise clothing promptly.

Avoid douching.
Avoid the use of feminine deodorant sprays and other perfumed products. They may cause genital skin irritation or an allergic reaction (contact dermatitis).
Having multiple sex partners and not using condoms can increase your risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which may increase your risk of a vaginal infection.

Urinate after sex, and rinse your vaginal area with cool water.
Limit intense exercise, such as bike riding or horseback riding, that can irritate the vulva. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar in good control.
Take antibiotics when needed, but avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics. Taking antibiotics exposes you to the risks of allergic reactions and antibiotic side effects (such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and yeast infections). Also, antibiotics may kill good bacteria.



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