Normally, vagina of a mature woman is protected against infection by the vaginal environment itself (with an average pH of approximately 4) and with an intact mucosa. This protection is maintained even when many pathogens enter the vagina. If the protection mechanism of the vagina is destroyed, for example: due to antibiotic treatment, lack of estrogens, diabetes mellitus or by objects such as tampons, pathogens can cause vaginitis (colpitis). Bacteria and fungi are the most common cause of inflammation of the vagina. Transmission usually occurs during sexual intercourse. For this reason, inflammation of the vagina is encompassed within sexually transmitted diseases. Inadequate hygiene may also be the cause of vaginitis.
The main symptom of an inflammation of the vagina is an abundant flow. Sometimes it can be accompanied by aches and itching or pruritus in the vagina. A vaginitis can be diagnosed with examination by observing the changes in the mucosa.
The treatment of vaginitis is determined according to the corresponding causative pathogen. On some occasions, inflammation of the vagina also be treated with man and woman. The treatment of inflammation of the vagina in girls vary with age. In younger girls, it is advisable to improve body hygiene, bathing (eg with antiseptics such as potassium permanganate), antibacterial creams and receiving a specific treatment as in Candida infection. In adolescents, as in adult women, the treatment is focused on each specific case and each specific pathogen.
An inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis, colpitis) is an infectious disease of the vagina: the term colpitis derives from the Greek ‘’kolpium’’ and the word vaginitis derives from Latin vagina, with equal meaning.
Inflammation of the vagina in mature women is the consequence of the destruction of the vaginal mucosal defense mechanism. In sexually mature women, vagina has created an important barrier of protection against germs and objects or mechanical stimuli. The entrance of the vagina is protected by the pubic hair against to these germs. The same function meets the lower and upper vulva lips. There are several factors responsible for maintaining the protective function of the vagina. Among them is the estrogen-dependent growth of the vaginal mucosa. Most of the disease pathogens can not pass through a mucosa that is intact. In addition, the vaginal mucosa creates an effective protection against objects or mechanical stimuli. Normally, the vagina is colonized by various kinds of bacteria (lactobacteria) which provide a relatively low pH value by forming lactic acid. This pH value effectively protects both the vagina and the innermost sexual organs by preventing the growth of other germs and hence the development of infections.
During puberty, girls still do not have this protection since their vaginal environment is not yet acidic enough, so bacteria spread easily and their vagina can become infected quickly. In the case of girls with an inflammation of the vagina, this usually affects the external sexual organs (the vulva).
Inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis, colpitis) is the most common cause of diseases in the female sexual organs; Almost all women have suffered at least once in their life.
An inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis, colpitis) has its causes in a disorder of the defense mechanism of the vagina. Normally, a healthy vaginal environment of a mature woman (with an average pH value of approximately 4) and with an intact mucosa can successfully prevent inflammation of the vagina. This protection mechanism activates and works when large pathogens enter the vagina.
There are numerous pathogens as triggers for destruction of the defense mechanism of the vagina and consequent inflammation. Among the possible causes of destruction of the defense mechanism are the following:
- Antibiotics, as they cause a destruction of natural bacterial colonization of the vagina (by lactobacteria)
- The influence of objects or mechanisms, such as the use of tampons or contraceptive methods, diaphragms and also sexual intercourse
- Situations that alter the supply of oxygen by the blood, for example a hypothermine
- Lack of estrogen, something that usually occurs before puberty, during menopause and in old age.
- The blood of menstruation, at least provisionally
- The alkaline mucosa of the cervix
- Diabetes mellitus (elevated blood glucose levels)
If the environment of the vagina or mucosa is destroyed by at least one of these causes, it can cause the entry of various pathogens and cause an inflammation of the vagina; Among the most common pathogens we can mention:
- Bacteria such as staphylococci, streptococci and Escherichia coli
- Gonococci, pathogens of gonorrhea
- Gardnerella vaginalis
- The parasite Trichomonas vaginalis which may appear in the mucosa of the vagina
- Yeast fungi (for example, Candida albicans)
- Viruses (for example, herpes virus)
Some of these potential colitis pathogens are normal colonizers common in women’s normal vagina (normal vaginal flora), while others are introduced from the outside into the vagina. The most common cause of infection is by sexual intercourse which is inflammation of the vagina can transmit by sex. Pathogens can also be passed from one person to another if they both share bathing suits, underwear or towels or if they do not maintain good general hygiene.
Symptoms that appear in an inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis, colpitis) are initially limited to the area of the vagina. The most important symptom of inflammation of the vagina is discharge from vagina. This flow is an abnormally spreading liquid which may have an aqueous, mucosal, purulent, foamy, lumpy or bloody appearance and may also be accompanied by an unpleasant odor depending on its composition. Nature of flow depends on which pathogen has been the causative agent. In most cases of inflammation of the vagina, there is an underlying infection of several bacterial mixtures which causes a yellowish-green flow. The flow of colitis from the Candida albicans fungus is white and odorless. A disagreeable odor such as fish may indicate bacterial imbalance of the vaginal flora (bacterial vaginosis).
Other possible symptoms of vaginitis are pain during intercourse (dyspareunia). Sometimes women with an inflammation of the vagina feel itching pains in the vagina. If vaginitis attacks from the entrance of the vagina to the external sexual organs (vulva), it can also cause here a painful and itchy infection (called vulvovaginitis).
In the case of an inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis, colpitis), diagnosis is obtained through an examination of the vagina. The vaginal mucosa is inflamed, reddened and covered with vaginal discharge. Small blisters sometimes can be seen on the skin of the vagina.
To clarify the diagnosis and find out which pathogen causes the inflammation of the vagina, the gynecologist takes a smear of the vaginal mucosa and cervix. Then, doctor proceeds to examine it under a microscope. In addition, doctor sends the smears to a microbiological laboratory so that they can identify causing pathogen and examine their resistance against antibiotics.
Actual diagnosis of inflammation of the vagina, it is important to determine what changes in the vaginal environment and mucosa have led to the appearance of infection. It is also advisable to talk about the issue of sexual hygiene.
The treatment of an inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis, colpitis) will depend on causing such inflammation in the vagina. The most effective remedies against a bacterial inflammation of the vagina are antibiotics while antifungal aids help against fungal infection. As an alternative treatment to vaginitis are antiseptics.
Treatment may be local and based on special suppositories, vaginal creams with medications, treatment with drugs in the form of tablets or injectables. Once the pathogen responsible for vaginitis has been combated, normal vaginal environment must be restored. Treatments which are applied for this purpose include lactobacteria and estrogens. Usually these are applied directly into the vagina. As a complementary home remedy, a tampon soaked in yogurt can be introduced into the vagina. This measure has to be repeated several times a day. This home remedy can have a positive effect that helps to improve the vaginal environment, relieve the pain and calm the discomfort of vaginitis.
In many cases, in addition to treating the patient with inflammation of the vagina, couple should also be treated. During the treatment of vaginitis, it is advisable not to have sexual intercourse, as well as not to use tampons or vaginal irrigations.
Prognosis of Vaginitis
An inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis, colpitis) usually develop without complications and has a good prognosis of cure if a proper treatment is performed.
Complications can occur when advanced vaginal inflammation attacks the cervix. In this case, an inflammation of the cervix may occur and give way to an inflammation of the fallopian tubes and ovaries (annexitis).
Inflammation of the vagina during pregnancy can create a risk of premature labor. In addition, future mother can infect the neonate with the pathogen of colitis during the delivery itself. This is particular case when vaginal inflammation is caused by herpes virus, gonococcus or Chlamydia trachomatis.
How to Prevent Vaginitis
An inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis, colpitis) can be prevented by preventing infections. An important measure of prevention is to always use condoms, since many of the disease-causing pathogens are transmitted through sexual intercourse.
Maintaining proper hygiene is also important to prevent infection of the vagina. It is not recommended to wash the vagina very often with soap, or to use foam baths, intimate spirals or to take vaginal baths. The vagina itself has an effective mechanism of protection and defense against infections. Excessive intimate hygiene can destroy this defense mechanism and favor the appearance of vaginitis.
To prevent vaginitis, it is important to maintain proper hygiene. After bowel movements, it is recommended to always clean from front to back, so bacteria in the stool do not enter the vagina.