It's bacterial vaginosis, not yeast
The vagina is one of the most highly favoured parts of the female body and a healthy vagina should be our highest priority. But swarms of undesired bacteria at times, do pose a challenge as we work towards maintaining our health and often leave us with an irritating infection.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in females between the ages of 12 and 45; and much too often it is mistaken for a yeast infection. It's on this basis Flair and gynaecologist Dr Nastassia Tate want to break the erroneous link that joins the two.
"BV is caused by an imbalance between 'good' and 'bad' bacteria in the vagina. Lactobacillus is a good bacterium that keeps the vagina slightly acidic. When this is at a low, it leads to a proliferation of the bad bacteria providing an environment for the infection to thrive," Dr Tate.
On the other hand, a yeast infection results from an increase in yeast cells, which leads to a disparity between these cells and healthy bacteria in the vagina.
Furthermore, with a yeast infection a female will secrete a white and curdy cottage cheese-like discharge, accompanied with notable vaginal itching.
"Not everyone will experience symptoms that indicate the possibility of a BV infection. However, those who do, may have a frothy white to grey discharge. It usually has a characteristic fishy odour. Itching is uncommon, which is another thing that differentiates it from a yeast infection. Additionally, a female may have urinary symptoms such as urinating more frequently and a burning sensation while passing her urine," she noted.
These warnings are not the only changes that occur in a woman's body when she has developed this infection. Though less noticeable, the vagina's pH value also changes. Dr Tate advised that a healthy vagina normally has an acidic pH value of 4 to 4.5 on a scale of zero to 14, with zero being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline.
With bacterial vaginosis, this range usually exceeds the norm adapting more to an alkaline environment. Therefore, it is best to preserve the acidic nature of your vagina. An acidic environment in the vagina serves as a natural barrier to infections and irritations.
"It is not considered as a sexually transmitted infection. However, it increases your risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV," she said.
Unknowingly, you could be predisposing yourself to developing bacterial vaginosis. Lifestyle practices, for instance, smoking, poor hygiene practices, douching, and having multiple partners and even a new partner are all risk factors that increase your chance of getting the condition.
There is no cure for the condition, but it can be treated. Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics, generally clindamycin or metronidazle. It's given in the form of tablets or vaginal inserts.
If you've been diagnosed or think you it's likely that you have developed BV, seeking medical help or advice is your best option; and especially if you are pregnant.
"BV in pregnancy can have serious consequences. It is associated with premature labour. This means it could have significant effects on your baby," she said.
It's not impossible for the infection to recur weeks, months or years after it has been treated. And if it does, there is no need for you to panic. As Dr Tate advises, "If your symptoms come back, just let your doctor or nurse know. You might need treatment with more medicine. Some women get bacterial vaginosis over and over again. These women might require medicine for three to six months to try to prevent future infections. But in spite of it all, you will be fine."