How is a healthy vagina?
The pH of the vagina is, usually, acidic, with a few to moderate amounts of secretions that are transparent to white or pale yellow and very fine to viscous. The colour and composition of the vaginal fluid depend on the levels of hormones in the blood and on the day of the menstrual cycle. Vaginal fluids may have a distinctive odour but are never smelly. Normally there are many microbes and fungi in small amounts in the vagina, but what is prevalent is lactobacillus, which in conjunction with acidic pH prevents the proliferation of other bacteria and fungi and therefore acts as a protective agent against the development of vaginitis.
Which vaginitis is caused by a loss of balance in the bacterial vaginal flora?
Factors that cause changes in pH and vaginal environment are hormonal disorders, sexual intercourse (especially with a new partner), moisture formed by sweat, heat or wet swimwear, swimming in dirty seas or pools and the broken body’s defence system, which is a result of fatigue and stress. Due to the above, the number of vaginal lactobacilli decreases, leading to the development of other microbes and thus vaginitis, the most common of which are:
- The candida vaginitis that occurs with a feeling of itching and burning at the external genitalia and the entrance of the vagina, redness, white, viscous vaginal secretions, no odour as a rule. Treatment is done with vaginal suppositories and creams or oral treatment. It is common to appear after antibiotic use.
- Non-specific bacterial vaginitis is due to the growth of other microorganisms which, under standard conditions, may be present in the vagina in smaller amounts (Gardnerella Vaginalis, mycoplasma, ureaplasma, e.coli, streptococcus, staphylococcus, etc.). It appears with grey-white discharge and foul odour (like a damaged fish or cheese). Sometimes, redness and tenderness are observed in the vaginal area. Other times it is entirely asymptomatic. The treatment is done with antibiotics in the form of a vaginal cream or oral tablets.
Which vaginitis is caused by sexually transmitted diseases?
- HPV (infection by human papillomavirus may cause warts that resemble small moles in the genitals and/or lesions in cervical cells called cervical dysplasia, which is detected by the Pap smear test)
- Herpes (infection by herpesvirus results in vesicular rash, redness, pain)
- Trichomoniasis presents with smelly yellow-green vaginal fluids and vaginal redness and/or tingling in urination. Treatment is done with antibiotics
- Chlamydia and Gonococcus. These are sexually transmitted diseases that can occur with vaginal irritation and purulent secretions.
How to prevent vaginitis?
You should try to keep the vaginal environment healthy. Wash with a neutral soap that does not change the vaginal pH and the area of the external genital organs should be well dried. Vaginal douches should be avoided, unless necessary, as the vagina can be self-cleaned. Use antibiotics only if it is essential. Avoid tight trousers and do not stay in a wet swimsuit for long. Preferably, wear cotton underwear. Adequate sleep and a balanced diet enhance the body’s defence system. The consumption of fruits, vegetables and formulations containing lactobacilli such as yoghurts, beverages or supplements, and vaginal suppositories with probiotics favour the development of healthy and protective microbes in the intestine wall and vagina. The use of intravaginal formulations with lactic acid is effective in restoring the acidic pH. During sexual intercourse the use of a condom is imperative. It is also important to swim in clean seas and swimming pools.