Every year, millions of cases of vaginitis (vaginal inflammation) affect women of all ages, but they are especially susceptible during the reproductive years. Fluctuating hormonal levels, bacteria, and sexual activities are just a few of the most common reasons women experience vaginal discomfort. The three most common forms of vaginitis are yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis (BV), and trichomoniasis. Symptoms for all three can include some form of vaginal discharge, itching, and irritation, so it is important to understand how they are different and require specialized treatment.
Knowing your body well and understanding the symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment options will help you decide upon a course of action that is right for you.
Vaginal yeast infections, or vulvovaginal candidiasis, are very common in women. In fact, 3 out of 4 women will experience a yeast infection in their lifetime. A vaginal yeast infection occurs when Candida, a fungus (yeast) normally found in areas like the mouth, digestive tract and vagina, begins to multiply and invade the vaginal tissue. Normally, Candida functions alongside other microorganisms in a delicate balance. When the balance is disrupted, an overgrowth of Candida can lead to a yeast infection.
Not all women will experience noticeable symptoms of a yeast infection. If the infection is mild, the symptoms might also be very subtle. Knowing what’s normal for you will help you be aware of any changes in your vaginal health. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms for the first time, consult your healthcare professional for confirmation.
Most women have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Vaginal itching
- Vaginal discharge that may be thick, white, and lumpy like cottage cheese
- Burning, soreness, or pain
- Pain when urinating or having sex
- Vulvar inflammation (redness, swelling, rash)
If you experience any of the symptoms below, ask a healthcare professional before using MONISTAT®, as they could be signs of another type of infection.
- Rash or hives
- Lower abdominal, back or shoulder pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Foul-smelling or greenish/grayish vaginal discharge
- Missed periods
- Frequent urination, an urgent need to urinate to difficulty passing urine
Many variables can change the balance of yeast organisms normally present in the vagina. Too many yeast organisms can trigger a yeast infection. Infections occur either when the balance in the vagina has shifted, usually when the ‘good bacteria’ has been affected, or when there’s too much ‘food’ for the yeast, such as hormones or moisture.
Too much food for yeast to grow...
- Pregnancy: Increased levels of estrogen during pregnancy make women more susceptible to yeast infections. The CDC recommends treatment with a 7-day topical azole, like MONISTAT® 7, but never treat without consulting your healthcare professional first.
- Menstruation: Changes in hormone levels during a normal menstrual cycle can affect vaginal health and result in occasional or recurrent yeast infections.
- Increased estrogen levels: Women who are taking birth control pills that have a high-dose of estrogen as well as those on estrogen hormone therapy are more susceptible to developing a yeast infection.
- Diabetes: Whether controlled or uncontrolled, diabetes puts women at higher risk for developing a yeast infection. The CDC recommends treatment with a 7-day topical azole, like MONISTAT® 7, but never treat without consulting your healthcare professional first.
Not enough bacteria to keep yeast in check...
- Antibiotics: Broad-spectrum antibiotics kill healthy lactobacillus (‘good’) bacteria in the vagina, which enables yeast to overgrow.
- Cancer Treatments: Undergoing chemotherapy creates a greater risk for developing a yeast infection.
- Impaired immune system: Women with weakened immunity from corticosteroid therapy or HIV infections are at greater risk for developing a yeast infection.
Importantly, sexual activity is NOT a trigger for yeast infections, though it is a risk factor for other vaginal infections, such as BV and Trichomoniasis.
Lastly, most yeast infections result from a type of Candida fungus known as Candida albicans, which is generally responsive to standard treatments, but other strains exist that are more resistant to common treatment options. If you have difficulty treating or curing your yeast infection, consult a healthcare professional.
Curing a Yeast Infection
If this is your first time experiencing a yeast infection or you are unsure as to whether or not you have one, consult your healthcare professional for a diagnosis. If you know that it is a yeast infection from past experience and are familiar with the symptoms, try MONISTAT®. MONISTAT® can begin to relieve symptoms soon after the first dose, with a full cure after seven days.
There are two ways to cure a yeast infection—vaginally (an over-the-counter or prescription topical treatment) and orally (a pill, only available by prescription). The complete cure takes seven days for both the oral pill and topical treatments, but prescription oral therapies must be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream before they start working. In fact, oral treatments may take up to 16 - 24 hours before relief of symptoms starts to occur. The MONISTAT® 1 Ovule® Treatment on the other hand, begins to relieve symptoms in 4 hours because it works at the site of the infection. Additionally, MONISTAT® products will work with less drug resistance and fewer drug interactions than the oral pill. In a recent trial program, more than 90% of women reported fast symptom relief with MONISTAT® and 97% reported they would use MONISTAT® again.* Only antifungal products will cure a yeast infection. Symptom relief products containing benzocaine or hydrocortisone will provide temporary relief, but will not cure an infection.
If you are experiencing symptoms of an infection, but aren’t sure, use the MONISTAT® Care™ Vaginal Health Test to help determine if you need to see a healthcare professional.
Yeast Infection Treatments Comparison
|MONISTAT®||Leading Oral Prescription Pill|
|Availability||Over the counter at many local stores and pharmacies||Requires a prescription from a doctor and can only be purchased at pharmacies|
|Speed of Relief||Begins to relieve symptoms 4x faster**||Can take 16-24 hours to start to relieve symptoms|
|Mode of Treatment||Topical – product applied directly to the area of infection||Oral – pill must be absorbed into the body and travel through the bloodstream to work|
* Data on file.
** Starts to relieve faster than fluconazole. Faster for onset of symptom relief (symptoms include itching, irritation, and burning). Based on clinical study comparing onset of symptom relief of MONISTAT® 1 Combination Pack Ovule® treatment with the leading Rx.
While preventing a yeast infection is not always possible, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing one.
- Using items that may inflame the vaginal membrane or upset the normal balance of the vagina, such as:
- Scented detergents, feminine sprays or powders
- Scented toilet paper, tampons or pads
- Perfumed soaps, bubble baths, and body washes
- Wearing wet bathing suits or tight exercise clothing that trap sweat in the vaginal area for long periods of time
It’s best to only use fragrance-free products in your intimate areas, and to change out of wet bathing suits and sweaty clothes as soon as possible to improve your chances of avoiding infection.
When to See Your Healthcare Professional
Make an appointment with your healthcare professional if:
- It's your first yeast infection
- You're under 12 years of age
- You get an abnormal result from the MONISTAT® Care™ Vaginal Health Test (tip stained blue or green)
- You have missed a period, are pregnant or breastfeeding
- You have, or suspect you may have, diabetes
- You're taking the prescription drug Warfarin
- You have a weakened immune system
- You have recurring yeast infections (4 or more in one year)
- You may have been exposed to HIV
- You develop other symptoms such as rash, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, lower abdominal, back or shoulder pain
- You have foul-smelling or greenish-grayish vaginal discharge
- You're using MONISTAT® and there is no improvement in symptoms within 3 days
- You're using MONISTAT® and symptoms last more than 7 days
If you’re unsure of what to ask or are uncomfortable speaking with your doctor regarding yeast infection concerns, download our Doctor Discussion Guide to help start the conversation.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is a bacterial vaginal infection that arises when “bad” bacteria is introduced into the vagina. The reasons that women develop BV are not completely known, but it is the most common vaginal infection among women of childbearing age.
For more information on BV, visit the CDC’s website.
84% of women do not experience any symptoms of BV, while they are infected.
The majority of women with BV do not experience any symptoms; however, when symptoms are present, they can include:
- Thin, white (milky) or gray vaginal discharge that adheres to the vaginal wall
- A fishy odor that is strongest after sex or urinating
- Itching or irritation around the outside of the vagina
If you're experiencing symptoms of an infection, but aren't sure, use the MONISTAT® Care™ Vaginal Health Test to help determine if you need to see a healthcare professional.
Although BV is the most common vaginal infection among women of childbearing age, not much is known about the way women get BV. There are a few activities and behaviors that have statistically shown an increased risk of developing BV including:
- Having new or multiple sex partners
- Using an IUD (intrauterine device) as birth control
- Not using protection during sex
Bacterial Vaginosis is usually treated with specialized antibiotics either taken orally or vaginally. At this time, there is no FDA approved over-the-counter treatment for BV. A doctor must diagnose and prescribe the treatment necessary to cure BV. Women who are infected can pass the infection on to female partners, though male partners are generally unaffected.
If left untreated, BV can increase the risk of:
- PID – Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Contracting and passing on HIV and other STDs
Simply treating symptoms, like vaginal odor with scented feminine products, will not cure the infection. Visit your healthcare professional for a diagnosis and treatment.
The exact cause of how women develop BV is unknown. Therefore it is difficult to say with certainty how you can prevent contracting the infection. However, it is best to avoid those behaviors that have been shown to increase your chances of developing BV and it is always wise to monitor your vaginal health.
Good Habits to Practice:
- Have regular pelvic exams
- Have protected sex (use condoms instead of an IUD)
- Finish all medication for BV
- Having multiple sex partners
- Having unprotected sex
When to See Your Healthcare Professional
BV can cause an elevation in vaginal pH, so if you've taken a vaginal pH test like the MONISTAT® Care™ Vaginal Health Test and received an abnormal result (tip stained blue or green) you should follow up with your healthcare professional. Only a healthcare professional can accurately diagnose and treat BV. At this time there is no FDA approved over-the-counter treatment for BV.
If you are unsure of what to ask or are uncomfortable speaking with your healthcare professional regarding your feminine health concerns, download our Doctor Discussion Guide to help start the conversation.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Spread by having unprotected sex with someone who is already carrying the parasite, trichomoniasis is the most common, curable STD in the United States. Infection is more common in women than in men.
According to the CDC, as many as 3.7 million people are estimated to have the infection, but nearly 70% do not report having consistent symptoms of trichomoniasis. The infection can still be transferred from person to person when symptoms aren’t present which makes trichomoniasis difficult to control.
For more information on Trichomoniasis see the CDC’s website.
In women, the Trichomonas vaginalis parasite most commonly is found in the lower genital tract. The vulva, vagina, and urethra can all be affected.
- Itching, burning, redness of the vulvovaginal area
- Discomfort when urinating
- Pain during sex
- A strong foul vaginal odor
- Frothy yellow-green vaginal discharge
Trichomoniasis is spread from person to person through unprotected sexual contact with a person who is already infected. It can be passed from male to female, female to male, and from female to female through genital contact. The parasite does not commonly infect other areas of the body.
Diagnosis requires examination by a healthcare professional and laboratory tests to confirm the presence of the parasite responsible for trichomoniasis. The infection can be treated and cured with single-dose oral antibiotics. The infection can recur after being cured, so any sexual partners should be informed so that they can also seek treatment. On average, 1 in 5 people get infected again within 3 months after seeking treatment. At this time, there is no over the counter treatment for trichomoniasis.
The best way to prevent contracting trichomoniasis is to practice protected sex (by using condoms) and avoid having sex with partners who have not been tested for STDs. It is also best to avoid sexual contact while being treated for trichomoniasis.
When to See Your Healthcare Professional
Trichomoniasis can cause an elevation in vaginal pH, so if you've taken a vaginal pH test like MONISTAT® Care™ Vaginal Health Test and received an abnormal result (tip stained blue or green) you should follow up with your healthcare professional. Only a healthcare professional can accurately diagnose and treat trichomoniasis.
If you are unsure of what to ask or are uncomfortable speaking with your healthcare professional regarding your vaginal health concerns, download our Doctor Discussion Guide to help start the conversation.