Vaginal disorders may affect women of all ages and they often depend on the presence of inflammations and vulvovaginitis, but sometimes infections appear that require an antibiotic therapy.
Irritations affect the external part of the vagina, while infections develop inside this organ and have a mycotic, infective or bacterial origin.
That is to say, infections may be caused by fungi (such as candica albicans), bacteria (Gardnerella, gonococcus, staphylococcus, streptococcus), intracellular parasites (chlamydia), viruses (genital herpes) and protozoa (Trichomonas).
Thanks to the contribution of Doctor Irene Zerbetto, a specialist in Gynecology and Reproduction Medicine at Humanitas, we will understand better the causes of the most common intimate problems and how to avoid having them.
The causes of infections
One of the most common causes is constipation: “The rectum and the vagina are communicant, thus a stagnation of faeces causes changes in the pH of the vagina and a consequent weakening of its natural defences. This allows for the colonization of the vagina by intestinal bacteria”, Doctor Zerbetto explains.
Other causes of infection are: unprotected, promiscuous sexual intercourses, inappropriate intimate hygiene, intake of medications (such as antibiotics and immunosuppressants) that change the vaginal flora and lower the natural defenses of the body, sharing towels, going to public bathrooms and pools, hormonal variations that make the vagina more prone to infections.
During the summer, there are even more risk factors, such as sweat, sand and seawater, the excessive use of tight dresses in synthetic materials.
How can infections be cured?
“Infections often manifest themselves through leukorrhea, that is to say, whitish vaginal secretions (sometimes smelly), itching, burning sensations and pain, but they may also be asymptomatic, as is the case with chlamydia.
If there is an infection, confirmed by a vaginal tampon, the pathogen has to be removed with antifungal or antibiotic medications in order to avoid relapses. In fact, relapses are common if patients only treat external symptoms such as redness and itches.
Natural remedies also exist and may be added to medications: almond oil against itches and pain, oat-based cremes against redness and itches, borage oil against itches. Then, it is paramount that you keep your vagina lubricated and hydrated, because atrophy and dryness favour the proliferation of pathogens”, the specialist recommends.
Tips for the prevention
In order to prevent irritations and infections, you should wear cotton underwear, limit your use of panty liners (because the hot, humid microclimate favors the stagnation of vaginal secretions and the proliferation of pathogens), have a varied, balanced diet (with vegetables and fruit, and few complex carbohydrates).
Pay attention to your intimate hygiene, asking your gynecologist for the most appropriate products to use (if you don’t know yet), and wash yourself from the vagina towards the anus in order to avoid the passage of bacteria from the anal area to the vaginal area.
If you swim in a pool or go to the beach, you should wash your intimate area with fresh water in order to remove residues of chlorine, salt or sand. Avoid sitting on the edge of the swimming pool.