If you have vaginitis, it can usually be quickly and easily treated. Despite the ease of treating vaginitis, it is better to prevent it altogether. While that's not always possible, adhering to the following guidelines may reduce your risk of developing it:
- Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet can keep you healthier overall. This can reduce your risk of developing vaginitis. General recommendations are that you eat plenty of starches, vegetables and fruit and limit your intake of fats, sugar and salt. Saturated fats and trans fats are particularly unhealthy.
- Eat yogurt with live lactobacillus cultures
Lactobacillus is a "good" bacterium. Eating yogurt that contains it can help to restore and maintain the proper balance of bacteria in your vagina.
- Reduce stress
Stress can have a highly adverse effect on your health. Learning and practicing stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, can improve your health and reduce your risk of vaginitis.
- Wear undergarments that aren't conducive to vaginitis
Don loose-fitting undergarments composed of 100 percent cotton or other natural fibers. Avoid undergarments that trap heat and moisture. These can lead to the ideal vaginal environment for "bad" bacteria or fungus overgrowth. For similar reasons, do not wear panty liners every day.
- Avoid the use of irritants
Products such as vaginal sprays and deodorants, deodorized tampons, douches and other chemicals can irritate the vaginal area and can lead to noninfectious vaginitis.
- Avoid hot tubs, whirlpool spas and bubble baths
These warm, wet conditions can provide "bad" bacteria and fungus with the vaginal environment they need in order to grow. They can also be irritating to the vagina, which can induce noninfectious vaginitis. Furthermore, if hot tubs, spas or baths are shared with others who have vaginitis, you may be able to contract the infection through the water, depending on the type of vaginitis present.
- Immediately change out of wet clothing
This includes changing out of a wet bathing suit after swimming and changing clothes that have been soaked. Such wet clothing can provide an ideal vaginal habitat for bacteria and fungi that cause vaginosis.
- Do not share items used on the vaginal area
This includes swimsuits, towels, washcloths, bath sponges, loofahs, bath brushes and more. These media can transmit some types of vaginitis. For example, the trichomonosis parasite can live outside the body for as long as 45 minutes and can be transmitted to someone whose genitals come in contact with damp objects that have the parasite on them.
- Exercise good toilet habits
For example, wipe from front to rear. It is also important to exercise caution when using public restrooms. Certain types of vaginitis, particularly trichomoniasis, can be transmitted through contact with a toilet seat. Refrain from sitting on an unprotected toilet seat or use a protector before sitting on the seat.
- Practice safe sex
- Maintaining a mutually monogamous sexual relationship. Restricting sexual relations to just one partner who is not infected with a sexually transmitted disease can significantly reduce the risk of contracting the infection.
- Using condoms. Use of condoms during vaginal, anal and oral sex can substantially reduce — but not eliminate — the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Male latex condoms or female polyurethane condoms should be used during vaginal sex, male condoms should be used during anal sex and a rubbery material known as a dental dam should be used during oral sex. It should be noted that although female condoms and dental dams offer some protection against sexually transmitted diseases, they are not as effective as male latex condoms.
- Not inserting dry objects into the vagina. An unlubricated penis or condom, for example, can irritate the vagina, leading to noninfectious vaginitis.
- Use a vaginal moisturizer for dry vaginas
Use of a vaginal moisturizer after menstruation or sexual intercourse can help to prevent irritation. Normal amounts of vaginal discharge protect the vaginal lining. If there is not enough moisture in the vagina, it is more susceptible to irritation and infection.
Perimenopausal and post-menopausal women are more susceptible to vaginal dryness because it is a common symptom of menopause, but the condition can also occur in younger women.
- Discuss hormone pills or creams with your doctor
If you are going through or are past menopause, these products may help to keep the vagina lubricated and healthy, preventing vaginitis.
- Monitor and regulate blood sugar if you have diabetes
Diabetes has been linked to yeast infections. However, keeping your diabetes under control helps to reduce the risk of an infection.
With all that in mind, it's important to note that vaginitis cannot always be prevented. It is a very common condition that, in one form or another, affects most women at some point in their lives. However, that does not mean that getting it is inevitable. While some risk factors, such as race, cannot be controlled, you may be able to minimize your risk of developing vaginitis by curbing those factors you can control. If, despite your best efforts, vaginitis does make an appearance, treatment is usually quick and effective.
Vaginitis: Treatment Options
If you have vaginitis, it can usually be quickly and easily treated. The main goal of treating all forms of vaginitis is symptom relief. Treatment of vaginitis depends on its type as well as your own preference.
A week or two of medications usually does the job. However, it is important that you speak to a doctor before self-medicating. Once your doctor has confirmed the diagnosis and presented you with treatment options, it is important to follow the doctor's orders closely. Stopping medications too soon may not completely treat the condition. It can quickly come back, just as annoying as before. Some types of vaginitis, such as trichomoniasis, require that your sexual partner also be tested for the condition. If it is present, it needs to be treated. Otherwise, you run the risk of reinfection.
Bacterial vaginosis treatment
Bacterial vaginosis can be treated with oral antibiotics, vaginal creams or vaginal gels prescribed by a doctor. Treatment for bacterial vaginosis is effective in most cases. If symptoms disappear, follow-up visits are not usually necessary. For recurrent cases, a more powerful antibiotic will be prescribed.
During treatment for bacterial vaginosis, you may be advised to refrain from sexual intercourse or ask male partners to use condoms. Routine treatment of male sexual partners is not advised.
Pregnant women who have symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, or who have previously delivered a premature baby, should be screened and tested for the condition during their first prenatal visit. Pregnant women with symptomatic bacterial vaginosis should be treated in the beginning of the second trimester with oral medication only. There is controversy regarding the treatment of pregnant women with nonsymptomatic bacterial vaginosis.
Yeast infection treatment
Yeast infections can be treated with medications available in two forms: vaginal and oral. Vaginal medications are available by prescription and over the counter. They include vaginal creams and ointments that a woman inserts into the vagina using a special applicator. Vaginal suppositories that dispense medicine as they dissolve can also be placed directly into the vagina for treatment. Treatment with these medications can range from several days to two weeks.
Oral medications are only available by prescription and come in the form of tablets or capsules. The dosage and frequency depends on the severity of the yeast infection. Women with mild infections may only need a single dose or daily doses for a short duration.
Most women rely on self-treatment for yeast infections. Therefore, over-the-counter medications are more commonly used than prescription medications for treatment of the condition. The over-the-counter medications for yeast infections are antifungal drugs that work to break down the wall of the candida organism until it disappears. The drugs also inhibit the ability of the fungus to multiply and form new membranes.
Roughly two-thirds of all over-the-counter medications sold to treat yeast infections are used by women who do not have the condition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For this reason, women should consult their doctor the first time symptoms of a possible yeast infection occur or if they are unsure if they have a yeast infection.
The use of oral or vaginal forms of medication depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the yeast infection and whether or not the infection is recurrent. A woman's personal medical history also influences the type of medication that should be used. For example, certain medications should not be used by individuals who have a compromised immune system, have diabetes, are or may be pregnant or are breastfeeding. Such women should consult with their doctor before beginning treatment for yeast infections.
Some drug regimens may include a combination of treatments, such as an oral agent followed by vaginal application of a cream. Severe or recurrent infections may require changing the type of medicine or remaining on a medicine for maintenance treatments.
You may be advised to refrain from sexual intercourse while being treated for a yeast infection. Treatment can last anywhere from 1 to 14 days. Yeast infections generally respond to treatment within a few days. Routine treatment of male sexual partners is generally not recommended, since most vaginal yeast infections are not transmitted sexually. However, in rare cases, a male partner may exhibit some symptoms of a yeast infection, characterized by redness, itching or irritation at the tip of the penis. If these symptoms appear, he may need to be treated with an antifungal cream. The use of a condom helps prevent transmission of yeast infections between partners.
In most cases, trichomoniasis is treated with a single oral dose of two grams of a prescription drug called metronidazole. If this fails to cure the infection, a longer treatment regimen of three to five days may be required. In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved another drug, called tinidazole, for treatment of trichomoniasis. This drug is now being used in women who fail to respond to treatment with metronidazole.
Unlike some STDs, trichomoniasis has not developed strains that are resistant to medications, so the prognosis for women who take these medications is excellent. In about 5 percent of cases, women do not respond to standard treatments. In such situations, an allergy to the medication may be to blame for the lack of success and a topical medicine called paromomycin may be prescribed.
The CDC recommends that both partners receive treatment if one partner has been diagnosed with trichomoniasis. This ensures that any traces of the parasite in either partner are eliminated and will not be further transmitted.
Women should not take medications for trichomoniasis during the first three months of pregnancy. However, after the first trimester, metronidazole or tinidazole may be taken if necessary. The National Women's Health Information Center suggests treating pregnant women who have symptoms and not treating those who have no symptoms.
Treatment for other types of vaginitis
Atrophic vaginitis can be treated with estrogen replacement therapy in oral form, or in the form of a transdermal patch, vaginal ring, tablet or cream. Estrogen replacement therapy is prescribed by a doctor.
Noninfectious vaginitis can be treated by identifying and avoiding the source of the irritation. Potential sources of irritation include perfumed soaps and deodorized tampons.
Regardless of the type of vaginitis and method of treatment, women should complete the entire course of their treatment even if symptoms subside earlier. Otherwise, the condition may continue to exist and reemerge at a later date. However, if you follow your doctor's treatment regimen closely, you should be free of vaginitis in a very short period of time.