COMMON INFECTIONS THAT AFFECT WOMEN
VAGINITIS (VAGINAL INFECTIONS)
Vaginal infections or Vaginitis, which is simply the inflammation of the vaginal, is the most frequent gynaecologic diagnosis encountered by physicians who provide primary care to women with common infections.
The prevalence and causes of vaginitis or vaginal infections are uncertain, in part because the condition is so often self-diagnosed and self-treated. In addition, vaginitis is frequently asymptomatic or has more than one cause. Non-infectious causes include vaginal atrophy, allergies, and chemical irritation.
Most experts, however, believe that up to 90% of vaginal infections cases are secondary to bacterial vaginosis, vulvovaginal candidiasis and trichomoniasis with the prevalence of bacteria vaginosis (BV) estimated to range between 9% and 50% and could be as high as 70% in female sex workers (FSW). In the United States, bacterial vaginosis is currently the most common cause of vaginitis, accounting for >30% of cases in women of childbearing age.
This infection is believed to be caused by the proliferation of a number of organisms, including Gardnerella vaginalis, Mobiluncus species, Mycoplasma hominis and Peptostreptococcus species. It is believed to predispose infected women to the development of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), Trichomonas vaginalis, Nesseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, and recently HIV acquisition and transmission.
BV appears to be particularly common albeit with highly varied prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa with several studies reporting rates as low as 8% to a high of about 58% from different sampling conditions and regions. In Ghana, it is estimated that about 25% of women are infected with BV. These contrast sharply with trends in industrialized countries such as North America and especially among whites, which is as low as 8.8%, but could be as high as 51% among Hispanics, blacks, and aborigines. Europe had even a much lower prevalence, 5.9% in Ireland, and 13.7% in Denmark. The risk of BV has been associated with intravaginal practices most importantly douching.
Recently, however, intravaginal use of petroleum jelly has been correlated with BV especially in sex workers in Kenya. Besides a limited study of BV prevalence, there is no current data on the levels and trends of BV infections in Ghana and especially contributing factors to the levels of infections. Thus this study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of vaginitis as well as contributing lifestyles of students to this infection on the University of Cape Coast campus, Ghana.
CAUSES OF VAGINAL INFECTIONS
Vaginal infections may be caused by bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms.
Certain conditions make the infection more likely:
- Reduced acidity (increased pH) in the vagina: When acidity in the vagina is reduced, the number of protective bacteria (lactobacilli) that normally live in the vagina decreases, and the number of bacteria that can cause infection increases, sometimes resulting in bacterial vaginosis.
- Poor hygiene: When the genital area is not kept clean, the number of bacteria increases, making bacterial infections more likely.
- Tight, nonabsorbent underwear: This type of underwear may trap moisture, which encourages the growth of bacteria and yeast.
- Tissue damage: If tissues in the pelvis are damaged, the body’s natural defenses are weakened. Damage can result from tumors, surgery, radiation therapy, or structural abnormalities such as birth defects or fistulas. Fistulas are abnormal connections between organs, which may, for example, allow the intestine’s contents (which include bacteria) to enter the vagina.
- Irritation: Irritation of vaginal tissues can lead to cracks or sores, which provide access to the bloodstream for bacteria and yeast.
Some specific causes of vaginal infections are more common among certain age groups.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF VAGINITIS(VAGINAL INFECTIONS)
Some vaginal infections may not produce any symptoms. If you do develop symptoms, the most common are:
- vaginal itching
- a change in the amount of discharge from your vagina
- a change in the color of your vaginal discharge
- pain or burning during urination
- pain during intercourse
- vaginal bleeding or spotting
The symptoms of vaginal infections will also vary based on the cause of your infection:
- Bacterial infections typically cause grayish-white or yellow discharge. This discharge may have a fish-like odor that’s easily noticed after sex.
- Yeast infections typically produce itching. If the discharge is present, it may be thick and white and look like cottage cheese.
- Trichomoniasis is a condition that can produce vaginal itching and odor. Discharge from this infection is typically greenish-yellow and may be frothy.
Types of Vaginitis(vaginal infections)
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Candida or “yeast” infections
- Reactions or allergies (non-infectious vaginitis)
- Viral vaginitis
Although they may have different symptoms, a diagnosis can be tricky even for an experienced doctor. Part of the problem is that you could have more than one at the same time.
How to Treat Vaginitis(VAGINAL INFECTIONS)
If you already have vaginitis, there are both suppositories and lactic acid pills that can help restore the defense mechanisms in the vagina. You can buy them at the pharmacy.
You can also remedy intimate irritation problems with a gel. For example, Australian Bodycare’s Femigel is perfect for soothing external symptoms. It treats itching, burning, and unpleasant odors in the intimate area, while Australian Tea Tree Oil counteracts any bacteria. The gel is pH-regulated and thus helps to restore a naturally acidic environment in the intimate area. In a clinical trial, 9 out of 10 women experienced good results after using the gel.
The best treatment of vaginitis is like all other conditions: prevention. You can minimize the risk of inflammation of the vagina by taking the following preventative steps:
Ensure good daily intimate hygiene with a mild soap formulated for use on your genitals. For example, use Intim Wash from Australian Bodycare: it gently cleans the area free of bacteria while keeping the skin moist, so it does not get irritating.
Use a gel that helps maintain the natural balance of bacterial around the external genitals. Femi Daily is a gel that effectively counteracts bacteria, helping to regulate moisture levels and maintain harmony, when used daily around the vagina opening. The gel is dermatologically tested and is suitable even for sensitive skin, as it is pH regulated for use in the intimate areas.
– Avoid wearing panty-liners or pads as much as possible. Wearing these items unnecessarily creates good growth conditions for foreign bacteria and fungi.
GONORRHEA (THE CLAP)
Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). A person can transmit it during any kind of sexual contact. With an early diagnosis, effective treatment is usually available. However, without treatment, gonorrhea can result in long-term complications.
In 2017, there were 555,608 diagnoses of gonorrhea in the United States.
Gonorrhea is a notifiable disease, which means that a doctor must report all diagnoses to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). This information enables health authorities to plan treatment and prevention strategies.
Gonorrhea is usually easy to treat, but delaying treatment can result in serious, and sometimes permanent, complications. For example, the pelvic inflammatory disease occurs in females when the gonorrhea infection affects the uterus or fallopian tubes, and this can lead to infertility.
Possible complications in males with gonorrhea include epididymitis, which is inflammation of the tube that carries sperm. This problem, too, can result in infertility.
Symptoms of gonorrhea
Symptoms usually occur within two to 14 days after exposure. However, some people infected with gonorrhea never develop noticeable symptoms. It’s important to remember that a person with gonorrhea who doesn’t have symptoms, also called a nonsymptomatic carrier, is still contagious. A person is more likely to spread the infection to other partners when they don’t have noticeable symptoms.
Symptoms in men
Men may not develop noticeable symptoms for several weeks. Some men may never develop symptoms.
Typically, the infection begins to show symptoms a week after its transmission. The first noticeable symptom in men is often a burning or painful sensation during urination. As it progresses, other symptoms may include:
- greater frequency or urgency of urination
- a pus-like discharge (or drip) from the penis (white, yellow, beige, or greenish)
- swelling or redness at the opening of the penis
- swelling or pain in the testicles
- a persistent sore throat
The infection will stay in the body for a few weeks after the symptoms have been treated. In rare instances, gonorrhea can continue to cause damage to the body, specifically the urethra and testicles. Pain may also spread to the rectum.
Symptoms in women
Many women don’t develop any overt symptoms of gonorrhea. When women do develop symptoms, they tend to be mild or similar to other infections, making them more difficult to identify. Gonorrhea infections can appear much like common vaginal yeast or bacterial infections.
- discharge from the vagina (watery, creamy, or slightly green)
- pain or burning sensation while urinating
- the need to urinate more frequently
- heavier periods or spotting
- sore throat
- pain upon engaging in sexual intercourse
- sharp pain in the lower abdomen
A person may go to the doctor due to experiencing symptoms or because they believe that they have had exposure to gonorrhea.
The doctor will ask the person about their symptoms and their medical history. They will also carry out a test, such as a urine sample or a swab of a potentially affected area — usually the penis, cervix, urethra, anus, or throat.
Home testing kits are also available for purchase online.
The individual can send a sample to a laboratory, and they will receive the results directly. If the result is positive, however, the person will need to see a doctor for treatment, and the doctor may wish to do another test to confirm the result.
It is crucial to use the kit exactly as the instructions explain, or the result may not be accurate. Different tests may also vary in accuracy, so it is better to see a healthcare professional if possible.
How To Treat gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is usually treated with a single antibiotic injection and a single antibiotic tablet. With effective treatment, most of your symptoms should improve within a few days.
It’s usually recommended you attend a follow-up appointment a week or 2 after treatment so another test can be carried out to see if you’re clear of infection.
You should avoid having sex until you have been told you no longer have the infection.
Previous successful treatment for gonorrhea does not make you immune to catching it again.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. This infection is easily spread because it often causes no symptoms and may be unknowingly passed to sexual partners. In fact, about 75% of infections in women and 50% in men are without symptoms.
Chlamydia trachomatis affects mostly young women, but it can occur in both men and women and in all age groups. It’s not difficult to treat, but if left untreated it can lead to more serious health problems.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
Chlamydia doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. So you may not realize that you have it. People with chlamydia who have no symptoms can still pass the disease to others. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner.
Symptoms in women include
- Abnormal vaginal discharge, which may have a strong smell
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Pain during intercourse
If the infection spreads, you might get lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, nausea, or fever.
Symptoms in men include
- Discharge from your penis
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Burning or itching around the opening of your penis
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common)
If chlamydia infects the rectum (in men or women), it can cause rectal pain, discharge, and/or bleeding.
Causes of chlamydia
Sex without a condom and unprotected oral sex are the main ways a chlamydia infection can be transmitted. But penetration doesn’t have to occur to contract it.
Touching genitals together may transmit the bacteria. It can also be contracted during anal sex.
Newborn babies can acquire chlamydia from their mothers during birth. Most prenatal testing includes a chlamydia test, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check with an OB-GYN during the first prenatal checkup.
Chlamydia infection in the eye can occur through oral or genital contact with the eyes, but this isn’t common.
How to prevent chlamydia
The surest way to prevent chlamydia infection is to abstain from sexual activities. Short of that, you can:
- Use condoms. Use a male latex condom or a female polyurethane condom during each sexual contact. Condoms used properly during every sexual encounter reduce but don’t eliminate the risk of infection.
- Limit your number of sex partners. Having multiple sex partners puts you at a high risk of contracting chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections.
- Get regular screenings. If you’re sexually active, particularly if you have multiple partners, talk with your doctor about how often you should be screened for chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections.
- Avoid douching. Douching decreases the number of good bacteria in the vagina, which can increase the risk of infection.
What Are The Treatments For Chlamydia?
If you have chlamydia, your doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics, usually azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline. Your doctor will also recommend your partner(s) be treated to prevent reinfection and further spread of the disease.
With treatment, the infection should clear up in about a week or two. It is important to finish all of your antibiotics even if you feel better.
Women with severe chlamydia infection may require hospitalization, intravenous antibiotics (medicine given through a vein), and pain medicine.
After taking antibiotics, people should be re-tested after three months to be sure the infection is cured. This is particularly important if you are unsure that your partner(s) obtained treatment. But testing should still take place even if your partner has been treated. Do not have sex until you are sure both you and your partner no longer have the disease.
What is the relationship between gonorrhea and chlamydia
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are both bacteria that cause STDs. The risk factors are the same for both infections, and both cause similar symptoms. The complications of chlamydia are very similar to gonorrhea except chlamydia is much less likely to affect sites other than the reproductive tract. Diagnosis and treatment are virtually the same as well. If you think you may have an STD, you should see a healthcare professional. They can determine what type it is by testing you as described above and then start proper treatment.
What is yeast infections?
A vaginal yeast infection, which is also sometimes called vulvovaginal candidiasis, happens when the healthy yeast that normally lives in your vagina grows out of control. It often leads to itching and other irritating symptoms. The medical name for a yeast infection is “candidiasis,” because they’re usually caused by a type of yeast called candida.
If your vaginal chemistry gets thrown off balance, the normal yeast that lives in your vagina can grow too much and lead to an infection.
They’re itchy and uncomfortable, and no one really likes to talk about them. But vaginal yeast infections are very common in women. It’s estimated that 75% of women will have at least one yeast infection in her lifetime.
Though yeast infections can happen to anyone at any time, there are certain things that make getting them more likely. Most infections can be cleared up quickly and easily.
Symptoms of yeast infection
The symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include:
- Vaginal itching or soreness
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain or discomfort when urinating
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
Although most vaginal candidiasis is mild, some women can develop severe infections involving redness, swelling, and cracks in the wall of the vagina.
Causes of yeast infection
There are many reasons you could get a yeast infection, including:
- Hormones: Changes during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or menopause (or if you’re taking birth control pills) can change the balance in your vagina.
- Diabetes: If your diabetes is not well-controlled, the increase in sugar in the mucus membranes (moist linings) of your vagina can create a place for yeast to grow.
- Antibiotics: These drugs can kill off many of the good bacteria that live in your vagina.
- Douches and vaginal sprays: The use of these products can change the balance in your vagina.
- A weakened immune system: If you are HIV-positive or have another immune system disorder, the yeast may also grow uncontrolled.
- Sex: Though a yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, it can be passed from person to person through sexual contact.
Treatment for yeast infection
Vaginal candidiasis is usually treated with antifungal medicine.3 For most infections, the treatment is an antifungal medicine applied inside the vagina or a single dose of fluconazole taken by mouth. Other treatments may be needed for infections that are more severe, that don’t get better, or that keep coming back after getting better. These treatments include more doses of fluconazole taken by mouth or other medicines applied inside the vagina, such as boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine.
URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS(UTIs)
What is UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection from microbes. These are organisms that are too small to be seen without a microscope. Most UTIs are caused by bacteria, but some are caused by fungi and in rare cases by viruses. UTIs are among the most common infections in humans.
A UTI can happen anywhere in your urinary tract. Your urinary tract is made up of your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Most UTIs only involve the urethra and bladder, in the lower tract. However, UTIs can involve the ureters and kidneys, in the upper tract. Although upper tract UTIs are more rare than lower tract UTIs, they’re also usually more severe.
Symptoms of UTIs
Symptoms of a UTI include:
- needing to pee suddenly or more often than usual
- pain or a burning sensation when peeing
- smelly or cloudy pee
- blood in your pee
- pain in your lower tummy
- feeling tired and unwell
- in older people, changes in behavior such as severe confusion or agitation
types of UTIs
An infection can happen in different parts of your urinary tract. Each type has a different name, based on where it is.
- Cystitis (bladder): You might feel like you need to pee a lot, or it might hurt when you pee. You might also have lower belly pain and cloudy or bloody urine.
- Pyelonephritis (kidneys): This can cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and pain in your upper back or side.
- Ure0thritis (urethra): This can cause a discharge and burning when you pee.
Causes of UTIs
Large numbers of bacteria live in the area around the vagina and rectum, and also on your skin. Bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel into the bladder. They may even travel up to the kidney. But no matter how far they go, bacteria in the urinary tract can cause problems.
Just as some people are more prone to colds, some people are more prone to UTIs. Women are more likely to get a UTI than men because women have shorter urethras than men, so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.
Some factors that can add to your chances of getting a UTI are:
Women who have gone through menopause have a change in the lining of the vagina and lose the protection that estrogen provides, which lowers the chance of getting a UTI. Some women are genetically predisposed to UTIs and have urinary tracts that make it easier for bacteria to cling to them. Sexual intercourse can also affect how often you get UTIs.
Women who use diaphragms have also been found to have a higher risk of UTIs when compared to those who use other forms of birth control. Using condoms with spermicidal foam is also known to be linked to a greater risk of getting UTIs in women.
You are more likely to get a UTI if your urinary tract has an abnormality or has recently had a device (such as a tube to drain fluid from the body) placed in it. If you are not able to urinate normally because of some type of blockage, you will also have a higher chance of a UTI.
Anatomical abnormalities in the urinary tract may also lead to UTIs. These abnormalities are often found in children at an early age but can still be found in adults. There may be structural abnormalities, such as outpouchings called diverticula, that harbor bacteria in the bladder or urethra or even blockages, such as an enlarged bladder, that keep the body from draining all the urine from the bladder.
Issues such as diabetes (high blood sugar) also put people at higher risk for UTIs because the body is not able to fight off germs as well.
Treatment of UTIs depends on the cause. Your doctor will be able to determine which organism is causing the infection from the test results used to confirm the diagnosis.
In most cases, the cause is bacteria. UTIs caused by bacteria are treated with antibiotics.
In some cases, viruses or fungi are the causes. Viral UTIs are treated with medications called antivirals. Often, the antiviral cidofovir is the choice to treat viral UTIs. Fungal UTIs are treated with medications called antifungals.
Antibiotics for a UTI
The form of antibiotic used to treat a bacterial UTI usually depends on what part of the tract is involved. Lower tract UTIs can usually be treated with oral antibiotics. Upper tract UTIs require intravenous antibiotics. These antibiotics are put directly into your veins.
Sometimes, bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. To reduce your risk of antibiotic resistance, your doctor will likely put you on the shortest treatment course possible. Treatment typically lasts no more than 1 week.
Results from your urine culture can help your doctor select an antibiotic treatment that will work best against the type of bacteria that’s causing your infection.
Treatments other than antibiotics for bacterial UTIs are being examined. At some point, UTI treatment without antibiotics may be an option for bacterial UTIs by using cell chemistry to change the interaction between the body and the bacteria.
Preventive measure for UTIs
There are some things you can do to try to prevent a UTI.
- wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet
- try to fully empty your bladder when you pee
- drink plenty of fluids
- take showers instead of baths
- wear loose cotton underwear
- pee as soon as possible after sex
- change your baby’s or toddler’s nappies regularly
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