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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 annually.

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.