Vaginal infections

by admin on May 22, 2011

Inflammation of the vagina, or vaginitis, is associated with a variety of symptoms such as vaginal discharge, unpleasant odor, itching, or irritation. Vaginal infections can be difficult to diagnose because they can be caused by a variety of factors.

Vaginal pH

The pH, or acidity level, of the vagina is naturally acidic in women of reproductive age. According to the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the normal pH level of vaginal fluid is 4.5. Anything with a pH less than 7 is said to be acidic, while anything above 7 is basic or alkaline.

Glycogen in the cells lining the vagina and the presence of beneficial bacteria known as lactobacillus help keep the pH level of the vagina just right to prevent infection.

What goes wrong?

Certain factors can disrupt the vagina’s natural pH level, leading to an infection. Semen has a neutral to alkaline pH (7.2 to 8), so frequent sex without a condom can alter the pH level of the vagina. Sexually transmitted bacteria present in semen can then lead to infection in the altered vaginal environment.

Many soaps have a pH of 9 to 10, so washing too thoroughly in this area can upset vaginal pH. Blood is also alkaline, which explains why menstruation can lead to an onset of vaginitis, especially in women with heavy periods.

A rise in vaginal pH also occurs after menopause, which leaves women with a loss of natural defenses and an increased risk of infections in the vagina and bladder.

Treatment

Vaginal testing is important to determine the correct diagnosis. Your doctor can perform a DNA test, which looks for the three main kinds of vaginitis: vaginal candidiasis (yeast infections), bacterial vaginosis (BV), and trichomoniasis. This test can be performed in the office, with results available the same day so that you can begin treatment immediately.

Douching is not recommended as it can wash away the beneficial lactobacillus. Soap should also not be used inside the vagina. The vagina is a self-cleansing organ, and washing away excretions around the external folds is sufficient.

Do not attempt to self treat vaginitis, as different types of infections require different treatment options. Do not take over-the-counter medications unless you are sure you have a yeast infection. Some people believe that inserting yogurt with active cultures into the vagina can help treat vaginitis – please do not attempt this as the lactobacillus in yogurt is a different kind of bacteria. Always see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and the correct treatment.

{ 1 comment }

kim armstrong November 25, 2011 at %I:%M %p

Very interesting information as I am paraplegic and suffer monthly from yeast infections.

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