Gynecological infections are common- almost every woman experiences it some point in her lifeArticle
27. 04. 2022 Gynecology
Vaginal infections are one of the most common reasons for patients to make appointments to see their gynecologist. Most infections affecting the female genitalia can be very easy to treat- but it’s important to start the treatment as soon as possible. Untreated or poorly treated infections can become a lifelong complication for women and lead to a whole list of more serious problems. It can even be a cause of infertility in more rare cases.
Every woman has experienced the unpleasant symptoms of gynecological infection at least once during her lifetime. Vaginal infections are quite prevalent and are one of the most common reasons for gynecological visits. They are caused by a disruption of the vaginal environment causing imbalance in the ratio of lactobacilli to other bacteria. "Typically, it is an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria such as Gardnerella vaginalis that causes recurrent or chronic discomfort. Additionally, yeast infections and/or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may occur. The spread of STDs is closely linked to sexual intercourse, and infections or overgrowth of bacteria such as Ureaplasmata, Mycoplasma or Chlamydia are often encountered. We also shouldn’t forget about the highly dangerous HPV (Human Papillomavirus, which may be cancerous and lead to malignant growths in both women and men!" explains Dr. Tereza Čeledová, gynecologist at Canadian Medical.
Signs of infection
For proper treatment, it is important to distinguish whether the infection is of bacterial, yeast or viral origin. It is also very important to remember that it is not always an inflammation or infection. The manifestations are often very similar. Women suffer from discomfort, itching and pain in the external genital area or vagina, and various types of discharge. But a range of problems can be to blame - from vaginosis and mycosis, which almost every woman experiences at least once in her life, to various venereal diseases and non-infectious skin diseases.
"I often meet patients who already have longstanding or chronic problems. Often this is the result of inadequate treatment prescribed either by another doctor or by the patient herself. Some patients try various over-the-counter medications and washes based on an incorrect self-diagnosis, which can do more harm than good," warns Dr. Tereza Čeledová, adding: "Quite often, the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are confused with mycosis, which leads to a setting up a wrong course of treatment."
Prevention is key
If the patient has reoccurring gynecological difficulties, whether in normal day-to-day life or on holiday, the best prevention is probiotics - over-the-counter lactobacilli in the pharmacy. "I recommend introducing them vaginally, every night before bedtime when discomfort starts. This can be done as prevention as well, for example on beach days or when doing heavy exercises. For long-term prevention, 1-2 vaginal probiotic tablets are sufficient, when applied after the menstrual period and mid-cycle. In any case, however, it is advisable to consult your gynecologist about the following steps," advises Dr. Čeledová.
Excessive hygiene or extra rinses often only undermine the natural defenses of the vagina. Patients who are prone to vaginal problems should therefore be especially careful. Intimate cleansing gels, which are intended to ensure pH balance should be used with caution.
All women, irrespective of if they are experiencing any issues or not, should see their gynecologist for a preventive check up at least once a year. Underestimating the importance of preventive care leads to a higher risk of undetected and undiagnosed oncological diseases in time, especially of the cervix, uterus and breasts. There is also a risk of overlooking a number of benign findings which can have a very negative impact on fertility, causing pain, irregular periods or other problems.
First aid for troubles
Acute problems can arise at any time. Stress, alcohol, an excess of sugary foods, heat and humidity, especially after swimming in the sea or pool, are all common triggers and causes of gynecological infections. In this case, it is necessary to act quickly and certainly not wait until the problem is fully developed. "Vaginal lactobacilli, which are available over-the-counter in pharmacies, can help with discomfort. They are introduced vaginally every night before going to bed. A very good preparation is also Borax or Borglycerin globule, the use of which is the same. I definitely do not recommend that patients take over-the-counter antifungal drugs - and certainly not antibiotics," adds Dr. Čeledová, reminding that if this first line of action does not work and the problems persist or worsen, it is necessary to go see a specialist.