Monday, March 29, 2010

Vaginal Infections

I thought I'd post about something different than pregnancy stuff, although vaginal infections can occur during pregnancy. There are different types of vaginal infections with different symptoms and complications. I would say this is one of the primary things we see in the clinic on a typical day. To start with, let's talk about yeast infections. Most women will experience a yeast infection at least once in their lifetime, and likely more than that. Yeast is a natural pathogen that we all have a small amount of in our vaginas. However, it can multiply and grow when other good bacteria are killed off such as when you take antibiotics. It also thrives on sugar, so people with diabetes or who ingest too much sugar may be more prone to yeast infections. It is also present in people who are HIV positive-that is another story though. Symptoms of yeast are typically intense itching and burning. Sometimes women will notice a white, curdly discharge as well. Yeast is usually easily treated with medications some vaginal, some oral-dependent on your preference. You can also naturally treat this with eating yogurt that contains live acidophilus cultures or acidophilus tablets that can used vaginally or taken orally. And then avoid excessive sugar consumption!
The next vaginal infection we see, and probably the most common is bacterial vaginosis. This is usually caused by the bacteria "gardnerella." The most common symptom is foul odor-typically a fishy odor. There is usually runny clear to gray discharge. The odor is also ususally worse after intercourse. This one is somewhat worrisome during pregnancy as it can potentially cause the water to break early and increase infection risk from that to you and the baby. This in turn will lead to preterm delivery. This may not happen to all, but it does to some and therefore, I believe it is worth treating during pregnancy especially. This is easily treated with oral pills or vaginal gels. There are also some natural remedies available to such as garlic, but I'd prefer you come talk to me about those so I can tell you how to do it correctly:) I actually think some of the more natural treatments are better especially for recurrent bacterial vaginosis.
The other vaginal infections are usually sexually transmitted. Chlamydia is the most common and unfortunately, many women do not have symptoms. Therefore, unless you come in and ask to be screened, this can be missed for some time. Gonorrhea is another one, and you may have green discharge, or some burning, or you may have no symptoms at all. It is less common than chlamydia, but we do see it and it is very important for both of these infections to be treated. Which, luckily, those two are 100% curable. However, if it isn't detected for months or years, it can lead to infertility and chronic pelvic pain. So moral of this story is, don't be embarrassed, come in and be screened for everything and avoid problems down the road. We have seen it all before, and won't be surprised!
I forgot to mention warts and herpes...also sexually transmitted infections. Herpes causes blister like lesions on the outer and sometimes inner vagina. They are very painful. It is almost always pain that brings people with these lesions in to be checked. Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes. You will have outbreaks throughout your life. We can somewhat control and suppress these outbreaks, but you will always have the virus and can spread the disease even when you don't have lesions. We can also treat some of the pain, but the disease remains.
Genital warts are also another nuisance. These are more common than herpes, but like herpes they are not really curable. We can apply an acid to them in the office or give you a prescription for a cream to help lessen or rid of you the present lesion (s), but the virus remains. You may still have outbreaks. The good thing is, these are not painful and do not usually cause a problem with vaginal delivery down the road (which herpes can). There is a vaccine however, that can prevent most strains of genital warts if you get the vaccine months prior to the exposure. The vaccine as some of you know is gardisil, and it also protects against some types of HPV that can cause cancer. Check with your provider if you think this may be something you are interested in.
Well, I think this mostly sums up vaginal infections.

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