An Inflamed Vagina Is Common, But What Causes It?
In this article I will cover the three main causes of vaginal inflammation, something I have seen people get wrong all the time. There is also a lot of bogus information on the topic on other blogs. I hope this article will answer all your questions.
Vaginitis is, by definition, inflammation impacting the vagina. Inflammation to this sensitive area can cause additional symptoms, including itching, discharge, soreness, pain during urination, pain during intercourse, or minor instances of bleeding or spotting. (You can read more about signs and symptoms of women yeast infection on this page.)
While a yeast infection is considered a type of vaginal inflammation, there are several different types of vaginitis. A lot of women who have discharge and feel itchy automatically assume they have a yeast infection, but that’s not always the case. It’s important to identify what type of condition you are actually suffering from so that you can get the correct treatment right away.
It is important for you to know whether you have a yeast infection or not, and if your symptoms are not significantly improved on my treatment recommendations then you will certainly need to go to your doctor for diagnosis. There are a number of inflammatory conditions which can affect a woman’s genital area, and I will explain the most likely presentations.
Three Main Types Of Vaginitis
1. Atrophic Vaginitis
This is most likely to be the result either from having had a hysterectomy or in a post menopausal woman. Atrophic vaginitis is estimated to affect as many as 40% of women. This type of inflammation is brought about due to the lack of estrogen stimulation on the vaginal tissue which can lead to the formation of adhesions, painful intercourse and an increased susceptibility to infections (including a yeast infection), itching, burning, stinging and a watery discharge.
Atrophic vaginitis is a condition that you will more commonly find in older women because it refers to a thinning on the skin lining the vagina. It is caused because of a decrease presence of hormones such as estrogen which are vital to help nourish and thicken the skin lining. This condition can also affect the vulva and cause shrinkage or thinning on the skin in these areas as well. The symptoms may include an inflamed, dry, red and burning vagina and vulva. Atrophic vaginitis is responsible for causing many menopausal women to experience symptoms such as painful urination, itching and burning and painful sexual intercourse.
The problem with vaginal atrophy is that it can leave the vagina and vulva more prone to developing other conditions such as a yeast infection, making the area more susceptible to any type of skin infection. Conventional treatment will generally include a vaginal estrogen cream temporarily which will be prescribed and monitored by your doctor. Go and see your naturopath or herbalist if you want a more natural (and side-effect free) option here. You do not necessarily need to take synthetic hormones to get a good result with atrophic vaginitis
2. Irritant Vaginitis
Irritant vaginitis is often cause by just that – some sort of irritant. You may be sensitive to a chemical you are using or you may be having an allergic reaction to something you’ve come into contact with. This can be caused by a number of chemicals or physical agents, including your tampons, the chemicals in scented feminine hygiene products, the type of personal lubricant you’re using, or even the harshness of the chemicals in the detergent you’re using to wash your undergarments.
This type of vaginitis can usually be resolved with a few lifestyle changes. Some women find it helpful to wash their underwear separately from other clothing, with a special detergent with less chemicals. Others use natural oils instead of chemical lubricants. Many switch to cloth pads and organic tampons. You should talk to your physician or naturopath about the changes that might be best for your situation.
3. Infectious Vaginitis
Infectious vaginitis is any type of vaginitis that comes from some sort of infection – fungal, bacterial, or otherwise. These include gardeneralla (a bacterial infection), any type of virus, STDs (like chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis), and vaginal yeast infections.
The cases of infectious vaginitis I see are often trickiest. This is where most women end up assuming they have a yeast infection instead of going to a doctor to be checked out. Like I said before, yeast infections and cases of bacterial vaginitis, for example, have very similar symptoms – especially when it comes to itching and discharge. A lot of pharmacies now sell an over the counter test to determine if you have a bacterial infection, in which case you’ll need to see your doctor for treatment. It’s a pain to be tested every time you have an infection, but it’s important to be sure you’re using the right type of treatment – especially if you’ve never had an infection of this sort before.
Last, but certainly not least, make sure you see your doctor or naturopath if you have recurring bouts of vaginitis, especially vaginal yeast infections. You may have a deeper rooted issue, or a chronic Candida yeast overgrowth within your body and you may need to approach your treatment in a completely different manner altogether.