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Vaginal Infections: Symptoms and Treatments

Updated on February 5, 2013

Although they are usually relatively harmless, vaginal infections can have more serious implications if they are left untreated. A course of antibiotics will clear up most vaginal infections in ten days or less. There are several different types of vaginal infection. These need different antibiotics to treat them but often have similar symptoms. A swab is one of the easiest ways for a doctor to determine which type of vaginal infection you have so that he or she can prescribe the relevant treatment.


Thrush is a common yeast infection that affects many women. It occurs when there is an imbalance in the vagina. This imbalance is usually related to the amount of candida fungus that is naturally present in the vagina. As a result of certain factors, this amount can increase significantly. Common triggers include taking antibiotic medicine, wearing tight underwear or clothing, pregnancy, diabetes and using perfumed bath products. Typically, symptoms include a white discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese and is itchy. This discharge can be thick in terms of consistency, but it is not always. The skin around the vagina will often be red and sore. You may also experience pain during sex or when passing urine.

You can buy thrush remedies over-the-counter. These usually take the form of an oral tablet but you can also insert a pessary tablet into the vagina. Anti-fungal creams are also available without prescription. Even if you strongly suspect that you have thrush, it is best to get confirmation from your doctor. He or she will probably take a swab from inside your vagina to test whether it is thrush or not.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

This is one of the most common types of vaginal infection. Like thrush, it commonly occurs because of an imbalance in the vagina. Although the vagina naturally contains certain types of harmless bacteria, these can multiply as a result of certain factors. Common triggers include douching the vagina and using perfumed bath products as this can alter the levels of bacteria in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis is usually characterised by a watery discharge that is grey or off-white in color and has a strong "fishy" smell. This smell will often be worse after having sex or during menstruation. Bacterial vaginosis does not tend to cause any soreness or irritation. If this is the case for you, it is more likely that you have thrush. Consulting a doctor and having a swab done can confirm this either way.

The antibiotic needed to treat bacterial vaginosis is only available on prescription, which means that a visit to your doctor is necessary in order to get the right treatment. Most women will find that the problem clears up after a course of antibiotics, but it may be necessary to try a second or even third type of antibiotics if symptoms do not go away. Alternatively, the same antibiotic is available in gel form. This needs to be inserted into the vagina.


Unlike thrush and bacterial vaginosis, this type of vaginal infection is usually sexually transmitted. Typically, symptoms include a yellow-green discharge that is often smelly. Pain during sex or when urinating is also quite common. Some women may also experience pain in their lower abdomen. To diagnose the infection, a swab will usually need to be done. Treatment usually takes the form of an oral antibiotic. This tends to be a single tablet dosage.

If you think that you have a vaginal infection, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Although they are often irritating and uncomfortable, most types of vaginal infection are not dangerous and will often clear up on their accord without treatment. However, this will not always be the case and it is possible for more serious consequences to occur as a result of untreated vaginal infections. For example, untreated infections can spread to the reproductive organs. This is not that common, but it is best to be on the safe side as far as your health is concerned.


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    • profile image

      BenjaminB 7 years ago

      thats all I was intending to do was give you another idea for an extension hub of this here prettykitty :)

    • dippykitty profile image

      Sally 7 years ago from UK

      BenjaminB - This is a women's health hub so I wouldn't look to cover male symptoms/treatments in it and I don't think that most people would really expect it to be included. I get what you're saying though and it's an interesting topic for another hub!

    • profile image

      BenjaminB 7 years ago

      Hmm, why would I stop by this hub being a man? Were you aware that some vaginal infections can also infect men,such as yeast infections.Perhaps another hub on this issue.Good informative style you have here prettykitty,well done!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for your information.