Vaginal itching, soreness and discharge affect every woman at one time or another. I find that more patients than not suffer with vaginal infections and are shy about discussing these very common issues for women, which is why I thought I would devote a blog on this very topic. There can be several causes for the irritation so it is best to discuss your symptoms with a physician. The most common cause of infection is bacterial followed by yeast. Vaginal atrophy, which typically occurs with menopause, is the third most common cause I see in my practice.
Bacterial vaginosis, the technical diagnosis, is when the normal bacteria present in the vaginal canal overgrows and creates symptoms. This means that the bacteria are not sexually transmitted but intercourse, the menstrual cycle, and douching can cause an alteration in the normal, more acidic pH in the vaginal canal. Typically the pH is 3.5-4.5 but the fore-mentioned contributing factors can increase the pH making it more alkaline and a hospitable environment for the bacteria to overgrow. Most bacterial infections can resolve with the use of vaginal herbal suppositories to lower the overgrowth.
Specific vaginal herbal creams can also be aimed at removing the yeast, for individuals diagnosed with yeast infections. However, if a patient is having chronic infections, I would say more than two a year, than the yeast need to be removed at the intestinal level as well. The proximity of the anus to the vagina is so close that the yeast can migrate into the vaginal canal and wreak havoc there as well. Everyone has yeast in the intestines but the problems begin when they are stimulated and overgrow. Hormones, steroids, antibiotics and sugars or simple carbohydrates can stimulate their growth. The individual who is dealing with chronic vaginal infections may also be affected by fatigue, foggy-headedness, digestive issues which are just some of the symptoms that can be triggered by the yeast. Treatment typically consists of more than vaginal therapies. A candida diet and oral herbal anti-fungals like Horopito or Capryllic acid will typically be recommended along with probiotics.
Vaginal atrophy develops with the decline in the body’s estrogen production. Estrogen naturally helps keep the vaginal pH low so that bacteria don’t overgrow. Estrogen also stimulates the cells in the vaginal canal to create a thicker layer to protect the canal from pain and irritation with intercourse or even walking. In other words, menopause can make some individuals more pre-disposed to vaginal infections and pain. Treatment and maintenance dosing with vaginal estriol cream, a weaker estrogen that the body naturally produces, can re-establish the pH and lining as long as it is used.
Other causes of vaginal infections can include allergic reactions to fragrant pads or pantyliners, condoms, spermicidals, laundary detergents and body soaps. It’s is best to speak with a physician that is well versed with the causes of vaginal infections as well as natural treatment options.