Common vaginal infections
Itchiness, soreness and a vaginal discharge can be signs of infection. However, it is quite normal and healthy for women of childbearing age to have a vaginal discharge. The quantity and color of this can change during the menstrual cycle, sexual excitement and pregnancy. An abnormal discharge, which is thick and white, green and foul smelling, or blood stained suggests possible infection.
Causes of infection
Thrush, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea are the most common causes of vaginal infection. Other infections include genital herpes and genital warts. Each of these is described below. A foreign body, such as a forgotten tampon, can also promote infection and cause an unpleasant discharge. In addition to a discharge, itchiness and soreness, other warning signs of an infection includes a fishy smell, painful intercourse, abdominal pains, redness, swelling, lumps, blisters, sore spots or ulceration of the vulva or anus, pain when passing urine.
To diagnose a vaginal infection, a doctor may need to examine the outer genital skin and the inner vaginal lining. An instrument called a speculum. The same as used for a smear test, is sometimes used. A sample of discharge may be taken using a swab, which looks like a long cotton bud. This is sent to a laboratory for analysis. Almost all women have the fungus Candida albicans growing harmlessly on and in their bodies. However, when it grows excessively, it causes thrush. Irritation and soreness of the vulva are the usual symptoms, sometimes but not always, accompanied by a thick, white vaginal discharge. If left untreated, the irritation can spread to the area between the buttocks. Passing urine and intercourse can be painful. Pregnancy, menstruation, diabetes, taking the pill, wearing tight underwear and antibiotics are all possible triggers of an attack of thrush.
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