YOUR HEALTH

Know­ing dif­fer­ent types of vagi­nal in­fec­tions

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Atha­bile Mrasi

WHEN women are un­com­fort­able and itchy down there, they tend to shy away from talk­ing about it. They feel like in­fec­tions are an em­bar­rass­ing thing to have or are all caused by hav­ing un­pro­tected sex.

WHAT IS A VAGI­NAL IN­FEC­TION?

A vagi­nal in­fec­tion is a con­di­tion that causes an in­fec­tion or in­flam­ma­tion of the vagina and is caused by dif­fer­ent things.

Hor­mones can change the pH bal­ance in your pri­vate part. If you are di­a­betic and your di­a­betes is not well-con­trolled, the in­crease in sugar in the mu­cus mem­branes of your pri­vate part can cre­ate a place for yeast to grow.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Health, be­tween 40 and 50 per­cent of women will ex­pe­ri­ence a uri­nary tract in­fec­tion (UTI) in their life­time. Even more, get­ting a UTI once in­creases your risk of re­peat in­fec­tions.

The re­port says about 75 per­cent of women have at least one vagi­nal yeast in­fec­tion at some point in their lives while nearly half have at least two. About 5 per­cent have more than three in­fec­tions in a sin­gle year. It is the sec­ond most com­mon cause of vagi­nal in­flam­ma­tion after bac­te­rial vagi­nosis.

DIF­FER­ENT TYPES OF IN­FEC­TIONS

Ol­wetu Mateta, a reg­is­tered nurse at Groote Schuur Hospi­tal, ex­plains the var­i­ous con­di­tions that cause an in­fec­tion or in­flam­ma­tion of your pri­vate part.

She says you can have an in­fec­tion caused by bac­te­ria, yeast or viruses. Chem­i­cals in soaps, sprays or even cloth­ing that come in con­tact with this area could ir­ri­tate the del­i­cate skin and tis­sues. Yeast in­fec­tions af­fect dif­fer­ent parts of the body in dif­fer­ent ways.

“There is the sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tion, Ch­lamy­dia, which may not show any symp­toms. Then there are gen­i­tal warts, which oc­cur with or with­out the use of con­doms. As long as there is con­tact be­tween male and fe­male gen­i­talia, you can con­tract the in­fec­tion and some­times with­out even hav­ing sex,” says Ol­wetu. “There are also in­fec­tions such as a blad­der

WHEN YOU GET RED RASHES, THEN YOU SHOULD KNOW IT IS TIME TO SEE THE DOC­TOR

in­fec­tion, which may cause pelvic pain, in­creased urge to uri­nate and can oc­cur dur­ing uri­na­tion or dur­ing sex­ual in­ter­course. You nor­mally feel fa­tigue, fever, dis­com­fort and cramp­ing or vagi­nal ir­ri­ta­tion.” AVOID VAGI­NAL IN­FEC­TIONS ■ In­vest in cot­ton un­der­wear: This is for op­ti­mal gen­i­tal health. A very tight G-string can rub and make the rec­tum and anus sore and carry bac­te­ria to­wards your pri­vate part and ure­thra, lead­ing to an in­fec­tion. ■ Don't for­get the lube: Lu­bri­cant is ac­tu­ally rec­om­mended for the pre­ven­tion of in­fec­tions, par­tic­u­larly for those who are dry be­cause it cuts down on the risk of tiny peri­urethral (tis­sues sur­round­ing the ure­thra). ■ Avoid overly fra­grant soaps and body washes: Us­ing the wrong type of soap or body wash near your pri­vate part can in­crease the risk of yeast in­fec­tions. ■ Don't hold your blad­der if you want to pee: Uri­nate reg­u­larly and go to the bath­room when you need to avoid get­ting a blad­der in­fec­tion. ■ Uri­nate be­fore and after sex: A uri­nary tract in­fec­tion hap­pens when bac­te­ria trav­els up the ure­thra and en­ters the blad­der. Pee­ing after sex helps flush out bac­te­ria be­fore it can travel to the blad­der. ■ Drink a lot of wa­ter: This helps to di­lute your urine and en­sures you'll uri­nate more fre­quently, al­low­ing bac­te­ria to be flushed from your uri­nary tract be­fore an in­fec­tion can be­gin.

SPOT THE SYMP­TOMS

“Gen­i­tal warts ap­pear in small cau­li­flower-like ar­eas and mostly ap­pear near the anus, on the cervix or in your pri­vate part. When you get red rashes and blis­ters, then you should know it is time to see the doc­tor. With ch­lamy­dia, you will only know once you get tested,” says Ol­wetu.

One of the symp­toms of an in­fec­tion is when your vagi­nal dis­charge changes colour, is heav­ier, smells dif­fer­ent and you no­tice itch­ing, burn­ing, swelling or sore­ness around or out­side your pri­vate part.

An­other symp­tom is when it burns when you pee or when you feel un­com­fort­able dur­ing sex.

KNOW YOUR ODOUR

As per­fectly nor­mal as it is for your vagina to have a cer­tain kind of smell, cer­tain vagi­nal odour can also mean dif­fer­ent prob­lems, there­fore it is very im­por­tant to know whether to seek a doc­tor's help or not. ■ Yeasty odour: Yeast in­fec­tions are not smelly at times. Oc­ca­sion­ally, these in­fec­tions are ac­com­pa­nied by a thick, cot­tage cheese-like dis­charge. The dis­charge will also have a faint scent of yeast. ■ Fishy odour: If you no­tice a fishy odour, the rea­son be­hind this is the most com­mon vagi­nal in­fec­tion; bac­te­rial vagi­nosis. ■ Bleachy odour: Many women no­tice a bleachy odour in their vagi­nal dis­charge. This might be be­cause of lu­bri­cants or con­doms, as these prod­ucts can con­trib­ute to this smell. ■ Musky odour: This could be the re­sult of wear­ing syn­thetic un­der­wear. ■ Metal­lic odour: You will no­tice a metal­lic odour dur­ing your men­strual cy­cle. This is be­cause of the blood; which changes the pH of your pri­vate part, mak­ing it smell dif­fer­ent.

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