There are a few types of bacteria who are natural inhabitants of the vagina. They produce acid that causes the vaginal surroundings to have an acidic pH. Acidic pH is a deterrent for many pathogenic bacteria as well as fungi who try to infect the vagina. Bacterial infection in women refers to the vaginal inflammation that is caused by an imbalance in the normal bacterial flora of the vagina. This infection is very common as it is seen affecting 1 in 3 women at some or the other point of their life. It is a very unpleasant condition which can be treated with medical help.
Poor hygiene or a weak immune system are the primary causes of this infection. If one does not follow a healthy lifestyle and practice good hygiene, it may lead to different bacterial infections. Women with a sweet tooth who eat a lot of candies and pastries can disturb the pH of their vagina. When acidity of the vagina decreases, other organisms get a chance to grow and flourish. Women using douches, vaginal deodorants, etc., can also decrease the acidity and increase the alkalinity of the vagina. This is because the normal flora Lactobacillus decreases by use of these commercial products.
Wearing tight undergarments, nylon underwear or pants decreases the circulation of air in the pelvic area. This causes anaerobic bacteria to flourish causing infections. Use of antibiotics, birth control pills, etc., also makes the vagina susceptible to infections. Women who smoke and those with a weak immune system are also at a risk of bacterial infection of the vagina.
There are different symptoms of this infection that include the following:
- Itching in vagina
- Burning sensation in vagina
- Irritation of the vaginal area
- Pain in vagina
- Redness in the inner parts of vaginal lips
- Raw appearance of the vaginal lining
- Vulva and inner lining of the vagina may develop swelling
- Watery or creamy, grayish, green or yellowish discharge from vagina
- Foul-smelling or fish odor of discharge from vagina
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding from vagina after sex
- Abdominal pain
The infection can pose a serious health risk to women who do not seek medical help. One can suffer from infertility if the bacterial infection spreads to the internal reproductive organs of a woman. There are different types of bacterial infection in women. They are:
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. This is a sexually-transmitted disease that affects both men and women. This infection is very common in sexually active women. It infects the cervix and urinary tract of women. Most of the women infected with chlamydia have no symptoms. However, some early bacterial infection symptoms include abnormal mucus or pus discharge and pain while urinating. It is important to treat a chlamydia infection as it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Another sexually-transmitted disease seen in both men and women is gonorrhea. This disease is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The early symptoms of gonorrhea are very mild and often ignored. Women experience bleeding during sexual intercourse, pain while urination, burning sensation of vagina, and bloody or yellow vaginal discharge. As the disease progresses, the symptoms include abdominal pain, cramps, bleeding between menstruation, fever, and vomiting.
The most common bacterial infection found in women is bacterial vaginosis (BV). It occurs due to overgrowth of normal bacterial flora of vagina or infection of bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis increases the chances of developing PID as well as HIV. Typical symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include vaginal discharge with a bad odor and severe itching called pruritus. Bacterial infection during pregnancy may lead to miscarriage.
A dangerous bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum is syphilis. It is transmitted by sexual contact with an infected person, contact with skin sores or mucus membranes of the genital areas, lips, mouth, and anus.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a serious disease that affects women. This disease spreads to the pelvic organs like uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and the abdominal lining, in extreme cases. PID occurs due to spread of a sexually-transmitted disease like chlamydia or gonorrhea. The symptoms include painful urination and intercourse, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, abnormal uterine bleeding, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. If untreated, it may lead to development of scar tissue of the reproductive organs. This leads to ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and chronic pelvic pain for life.
Antibiotics for Treatment
There are various antibiotics for treating the infections caused by bacteria in women. These antibiotics include trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin, nitrofurantoin, ampicillin, norfloxacin, ciprofloxacin, trovafloxin, etc. Bacterial vaginosis is usually treated with medications like metronidazole or clindamycin. Your doctor will prescribe the antibiotics depending on the type of bacterial infection.
If you experience any of the aforementioned bacterial infection symptoms, do not self medicate. Instead, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.