Vaginal Infections Often Go Ignored
Vaginal infections result in more trips to see a doctor for women
than most other conditions, leading to roughly 10 million office visits
Most women will have an infection in her genital region at least
once in her lifetime, but a recent survey revealed that many women do
not fully understanding these infections and they often go untreated.
Vaginitis, or the irritation of the vagina, can result from a host
of different infections. The most common types include bacterial
vaginosis, candidiasis (yeast) and trichomoniasis.
Women who suffer from itching, redness and swelling may not realize what is going on.
"Many women will use creams that mask odors or treat itching. If the
creams don't work, finally the symptoms are persistent and they will
come in" to see a doctor, says Mary Inagami, M.D., chief of gynecology
at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, which serves more than 300,000
veterans in Connecticut and southern New England.
There can be serious health consequences from under treating or
mistreating vaginal infections. "If bacterial vaginosis goes untreated,
you can have complications from pregnancy or problems after surgery,"
Inagami said. "An untreated infection can also obscure the Pap smear
results." There is also evidence linking bacterial vagninosis to
increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medications,
but other vaginal infections cannot. Bacterial vaginosis and
trichomoniasis require a treatment prescribed by a doctor.
Vaginal irritation, itching, discharge, or odor should never be
treated with douching, which can flush an infection further into the
reproductive tract. If you have never had an infection before and you
think it is just a yeast infection, it is best to first visit a doctor
to rule out other possibilities before beginning any treatment.