The scenario may be all too familiar for many women; something just doesn’t feel 100% right “down there.” Unusual discharge, foul odor, itching, irritation and change in urinary habits might be noted. These symptoms can be a great source of concern and confusion but subtle nuances might give clues to the underlying cause. So, let’s try to clear up the confusion, because when it comes to identifying feminine health infections, knowing what to look for is key.
Vaginal yeast infections are incredibly common. Typically, women will complain of a thick white cottage cheesy, curd-like discharge accompanied by intense internal and/or external itching. While a foul odor is not usual, some will report a sour odor, with red and sore tissue. Yeast overgrowth is frequently associated with recent antibiotic use or sitting around in wet workout clothes or a bathing suit for prolonged periods.
Even more common than a yeast infection is BV, or bacterial vaginosis, which is caused by an imbalance in the typical vaginal flora. When this imbalance occurs, the normal acidic pH of the vagina is altered and symptoms of infection occur. While often confused with a yeast infection, BV usually presents with a thinner, grayish discharge and a distinct fishy odor, as well as vaginal itching, burning and irritation. Women with multiple sexual partners or significant hormonal changes are at higher risk for BV.
URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS
Uncomfortable burning with urination, frequency and an intense urge to go are signals of a UTI (urinary tract infection). In this case, the urine might appear cloudy or have a strong odor. In severe cases, lower pelvic pain, flank pain with fever and chills or blood in the urine might be noted. Vaginal discharge and itching are not typical.
By understanding the nuances of yeast infections, BV and UTIs, you’ll be better prepared to talk with a medical professional about what you’re feeling. This will help your doctor establish an accurate diagnosis and determine the proper treatment—so you can get back to your life without wiggling around in your chair and staying close to the bathroom.
ABOUT DR. KIRA SCHMID HALAK:
Dr. Kira Schmid Halak received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. Dr Halak is Senior manager of global R&D (Research & Development) for the AZO and Estroven brands and is passionate about women’s health. She was also the scientific director for the integrative medicine textbook, Disease Prevention & Treatment, and she is often heard on national and regional health programs, as well as being a frequent contributor to widely read health and wellness publications.