3 Common Vaginal Infections – what do you need to know?

No one wants a vaginal infection but unfortunately – they happen!  Here is what you need to know about the 3 most common vaginal infections – the symptoms and how to treat them.

1. Yeast Infections

  • Yeast infections are VERY common.  At least ½ of us have one by the time we’re in our early 20s. 
    • Clues that you have a yeast infection –
      • your vulva and vagina become irritated and itchy
      • your discharge gets thicker and clumpy (sometimes described as “cottage cheese” discharge – gross, we know)
      • usually there is no odor – so things should smell pretty much the same as they always do
    • Treatment
      • Yeast infections can be treated with an over the counter cream called miconazole (Monistat is a common name brand) or a one dose pill called Diflucan that’s a prescription that comes from your doctor. 
      • If you use an over the counter yeast cream DO NOT use a 1 or 3 day course!  Always use the 7 day course!  Yes this is annoying, but the 1 and 3 day courses have a stronger concentration of medication that can actually cause more pain and irritation. 
      • There are several “natural” treatments for yeast infections such as putting tea tree oil, yogurt or garlic into your vagina.  I DO NOT recommend this.  None are proven to be effective and all can increase your risk of other vaginal infections or irritation.   
      • Yeast infections are not typically spread by sex – so if you are sexually active, you don’t need to worry about giving it to your partner.  Though, you probably want to hold off on sex for a few days during treatment so as to not cause more irritation to your poor vagina. 

2. Bacterial Vaginosis (or BV)

  • This is actually the most common vaginal infection! 
    • It’s due to an imbalance in the normal bacteria in the vagina. 
    • Clues you have BV:
      • Similar to a yeast infection the symptoms of BV can be irritation, burning and occasionally some itching. 
      • You may also have increased discharge but the discharge doesn’t tend to be clumpy like with yeast. 
      • One of the key symptoms with BV is the odor.  Your discharge will have a characteristic “fishy” odor
      • It is common to think you have a yeast infection when it’s actually BV.  If you try using an OTC yeast treatment and continue to have symptoms, this is sign you may have BV and should be seen by your doctor
    • Treatment options
      • BV does need to be treated with an antibiotic that can be in pill or cream form. 
      • Like yeast, this is also not considered an STI – you can get this even if you aren’t sexually active.  But if you are sexually active, your partner doesn’t need treatment unless he/she also has symptoms

3. Trichomoniasis (or Trich for short)

  • This is the most common non-viral STI
    • Clues you have trich:
      • Your vulvar and vagina will burn and you may have pain with sex
      • Your vaginal discharge turns a yellow/green color and is frothy.  It also usually smells bad. 
      • You may have spotting, particularly after sex if you are sexually active.
    • Treatment
      • Trich is treated with antibiotic pills that are prescribed by your doctor. 
      • Because trich is sexually transmitted (including with oral sex) your partner needs to be treated for this too.

Ok..that’s it!  While we can’t prevent vaginal infections 100% of the time, now you know what symptoms to look out for and when to see your doctor.  Hope this is helpful!

XO, Dr. Q

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