Vaginal infections (vaginitis) are a common problem. Just about every woman will experience at least one during her lifetime. The vagina is lined with a mucous membrane, a soft tissue that is vulnerable to some infections. Bacteria normally live in the vagina. If the acid that protects the vagina from disease is lessened, an infection can occur. Most vaginitis is the result of an infection caused by candida (a yeast infection), chlamydia (a sexually transmitted disease), Gardnerelia bacteria or gonorrhea.
- increased vaginal discharge
- itching and burning
- redness and swelling of the vulvular area
- painful intercourse
- foul odor
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Wear pantyhose with a cotton crotch.
- Wear loose-fitting pants and shorts.
- Wash your vaginal area thoroughly once a day with an unscented, non-deodorant soap and dry yourself completely.
- After bowel movements, always wipe from front to back, away from the vaginal opening.
- Avoid douching. Even douching with water can wash away friendly bacteria.
- Avoid using genital deodorant sprays and powders.
- After swimming, immediately change into dry clothing. Relaxing in a wet suit made out of synthetic fibers increases the risk of infection.
- Have your partner wash his penis before and after intercourse. Have him use a condom if there is any question that either of you has an infection.
- If you suspect a vaginal infection, avoid sex until the problem is diagnosed and treated.
- Avoid tampons if you have an infection. Tampons can absorb your medication and cause irritation.
- Change feminine pads and tampons frequently.
- If you suspect you have a vaginal infection, contact your doctor immediately.