What is that feeling?
We’ve all felt it before, some days you just feel off. Whether it’s an itch, a strange smell or even burning, sometimes your vagina has an off day. What does an off day for your vagina mean? And what are you supposed to do about it?
An off day for your vagina.
There’s no need to panic. The most common cause of vaginal itching, burning or that fishy odor is something called vaginitis. Vaginitis just mean inflammation or irritation of the vagina, and it can happen all the time due to a change in the pH.
A happy vag
Before understanding what makes your vagina unhappy, let’s talk about what makes it happy. During reproductive years (after puberty but before menopause), estrogen keeps the pH of your vagina in check. The pH of your vagina is important because your vagina has a natural flora of bacteria that help keep it clean and happy. Similar to the bacteria in your gut that help you digest food, the bacteria in your vagina are key to a happy and healthy vag. This is why douching or cleaning the inside of your vagina can often throw off the natural environment. When you wash out your vagina, it can change the pH and even kill your natural vaginal flora.
So, what makes your vagina unhappy?
One of the most common causes of vaginitis is something called bacterial vaginosis or BV. BV is not a sexual transmitted disease (STD), its simply an overgrowth of your normal vaginal flora. Sometimes the bacteria that keep your vag happy can get off balance and this can cause a fishy odor or an abnormal vaginal discharge. However, many people with BV, don’t notice anything at all. If you have BV and it’s bothering you, your doctor can prescribe treatment.
The second most common cause of vaginitis is a yeast infection. Sometimes people with yeast infections might not notice any big changes, but others can have severe symptoms of burning, itching, pain with urination and an abnormal discharge. The discharge is usually described as cottage cheese, so if you notice something like this, don’t be alarmed. Yeast infections are very common and very treatable. If you think you might have a yeast infection, but can’t make it to your doctor right away there are a number of over the counter treatments available that can be effective in treating the symptoms of yeast infections. If you can make it to your doctor, they can prescribe treatment in one simple pill.
Another common cause of vaginitis is something called trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis the most common non-viral STD in the US. More than half of patients with this infection don’t have any symptoms. Common symptoms that people do notice are itching, burning, abnormal discharge and bleeding after sex. Because trichomoniasis can hang around without any symptoms for a long time in both women and men, just because you start to notice symptoms or are diagnosed with it, do not mean you recently acquired it. More importantly, trichomoniasis is easily treatable by your doctor so there’s no need to panic if you think you might have it. Just try to see your doctor as soon as possible.If you’re unsure what you’re feeling or nervous about an STD, the best thing you can do is try to see your doctor. This might not be as easy as it used to be because of COVID, but many offices offer telehealth visits at this time so please reach out.