While genital infections are an uneasy topic to discuss and seek treatment for, ignoring them leads to severe complications like infertility and even death. Most of these can be treated with a regular course of antibiotics and some topical treatment when identified early. Genital infections can be broadly classified into sexually transmitted and non-sexually transmitted. Read on to know some more common infections in both the categories.
Sexually transmitted diseases:
- Chlamydia: Caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, it is the most common STD (sexually transmitted disease) and affects about 10% of 20 to 30 year olds. It is often asymptomatic, but in few cases, there could be increased vaginal discharge. Left undetected, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and subsequently infertility.
- Gonorrhea: The bacteria Neisseria gonorrhea causes this STD, which is very common. There could be some irritation or discharge, but is mostly asymptomatic. Like Chlamydia, if not treated, it can lead to PID and infertility.
- HIV: The most dangerous of all, it causes AIDS, with immunosuppression as a major effect and affecting overall health. The women affected by HIV are more prone to candida and other genital infections.
- Genital warts: This viral infection is caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) and manifests as multiple warts on the vulva, vagina, and cervix and can cause cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (precancerous).
- Genital herpes: This virus again causes multiple small vesicles and ulcers around the vagina, painful urination, and swelling of the lymph nodes. Caused by type 1 herpes virus more commonly than type 2, it has a high chance of recurrence.
- Trichomonas: This STD manifests with very few symptoms and can go undetected for a long time. It can lead to PID and infertility.
- Syphilis: Caused by Treponema pallidum, there are 3 stages. The primary stage presents with an ulcer. The secondary presents with a rash, multiple genital warts, and oral warts/ulcers. It then goes into a latent phase and may subside without progression. In some cases, it reaches the tertiary stage and can affect various body organs including the liver, heart, or brain.
Non-sexually transmitted diseases: There two major genital infections not transmitted by sex are bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis.
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV): Constant change in the bacteria mix present in the genital area produces an imbalance and leads to altered pH and therefore BV. Pregnancy, intrauterine device, and frequent douching are proven risk factors for developing BV.
- Candidiasis: The genital tract usually has yeasts, and Candida vaginalis is present in the vagina. An overgrowth of this leads to infection. This can be caused by use of antibiotics (which destroy the good bacteria), diabetes, pregnancy, and birth control pills.
Early diagnosis and intervention of these infections can prevent severe symptoms in most cases. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a gynaecologist.