Gynecological infections and inflammations can be somewhat complicated and polymicrobial, which means they are caused by several species of microorganisms. These infections and inflammations can occur anywhere from the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, adnexa and ovaries.
There are various types of gynecological infections. Three of the most common are vulvitis, vaginitis and cervicitis. Vulvitis refers to the inflammation of the vulva, or the folds of skin on the outside of a female’s genitalia. Vaginitis refers to the inflammation of the vagina. Cervicitis is inflammation of the cervix, or the lower end of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
Types of gynecological infections
Common types of gynecologic infections and inflammations include:
- Vulvitis – The inflammation of the vulva, the folds of skin on the outside of a female’s genitalia
- Cervicitis – Inflammation of the cervix, the lower end of of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
- Vaginitis – There are several types of vaginitis:
- Bacterial vaginosis – This most common type of vaginitis can be caused by the disruption of the normal bacteria found in your vagina. Typically, the bacterium normally present in the vagina is outnumbered by other bacteria, which can upset the balance and lead to bacterial vaginosis. This type of vaginitis is commonly linked with sexual intercourse. Symptoms include a grayish-white discharge with an unpleasant odor.
- Yeast infections – These occur when there is a surge of fungal organisms in your vagina. Symptoms include itching and white, thick discharge.
- Trichomoniasis – This common sexually transmitted disease is caused by a parasite called trichomoniasis vaginitis and is spread during sexual intercourse with an infected person. Symptoms include a greenish, frothy discharge.
- Noninfectious vaginitis – This refers to vaginal irritation without a present infection. Common causes include vaginal sprays, scented detergents and spermicidal products.
Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (vaginal atrophy) – Reduced estrogen levels after menopause or surgical removal of your ovaries can result of the thinning of the vaginal lining, leading to irritation, burning and dryness.
There are several lifestyle choices, allergic reactions and irritants that can lead to vaginal inflammations and infections:
- Colored or perfumed toilet paper
- Allergic reaction to soap
- Vaginal sprays or douches
- Allergic reaction to spermicide
- Fungal or bacterial infections including scabies or pubic lice
- Skin conditions such as dermatitis or eczema
- Oral sex
- Medications (antibiotics and steroids)
- Damp or tight clothing
- Using an intrauterine device for birth control
Common symptoms of vulvitis include:
Thick, scaly white patches on the vulva
Frequent, difficult or painful urination
Redness and swelling on the vulva and labia
Although your symptoms may vary depending on the type of vaginitis you have, the most common symptoms of vaginitis include:
- Abnormal or increased discharge
- Vaginal irritation and itching
- Painful urination
- Light vaginal bleeding
- Painful intercourse
Symptoms of cervicitis include:
- Grayish or pale yellow vaginal discharge
- Pain during intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Frequent, difficult or painful urination
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
When diagnosing a gynecologic inflammation or infection, your doctor will review your medical history and examine your current symptoms. Tests typically include cultures and microscopy.
Gynecologic infections and inflammations are typically treated through antibiotics, creams and ointments. For more serious pelvic abscesses or infections, your doctor might recommend IV therapy.