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Your fever won’t go away if you take medicine for a stomach upset. Well the same goes for vaginal infections. Two of the most common conditions – with one often mistaken for the other - are urinary tract infections (UTI) and vaginitis (vagina inflammation).
About half of women with symptoms of a UTI actually have some other condition like vaginitis, which may accompany or lead to UTIs. We take a closer look at these two conditions to help sort out the confusion.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A UTI is an infection that begins in your urinary system, which is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. While any part of your urinary system can become infected, most infections occur in the bladder and the urethra (lower urinary tract).
A urinary tract infection in the bladder can be both painful and annoying. It can also develop into much more serious problems if it spreads to your kidneys.
Urinary tract infections don’t always present with symptoms, but the most obvious ones include:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain
  • Urinating frequently in small amounts
  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • Urine that appears cloudy, bright pink or cola colored

The culprits

  1. One of the main causes of UTI are bacteria from the bowel that live on the skin near the rectum or in the vagina. Once these bacteria spread and enter the urethra, they travel upward, causing infection in the bladder and sometimes other parts of the urinary tract.
  2. Due to the structure of the female anatomy, during sexual activity, bacteria in the vaginal area can sometimes be massaged into the urethra. Thus, sexual intercourse is also a common cause of urinary tract infections.
  3. The bladder is essentially a muscle that stretches to hold urine and contracts when the urine is released. So when you wait too long to urinate it causes the bladder to stretch beyond its capacity, causing the bladder muscle to weaken over time. A weakened bladder may not empty completely, and leftover urine in the bladder increases the risk of urinary tract infections or bladder infections.
  4. Other factors that also may increase your risk of developing UTI include pregnancy, having urinary tract infections or bladder infections as a child, menopause, or diabetes.


Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain. There are in fact several different kinds of vaginitis, each with their own causes and symptoms.
Thus, even if you realise your infection is not a UTI, you may not know what type of vaginitis it is. And as each type of vaginitis also has different treatment solutions, the wrong treatment gives no results, leaving the sufferers frustrated.
Vaginitis can produce a variety of symptoms, such as abnormal or increased discharge, itching, fishy odour, irritation, painful urination or vaginal bleeding. When you have vaginitis, you may have some or all of these symptoms.

  1. Yeast infections: Candida or yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of naturally occurring fungus called candida albicans. An estimated three out of four women will have a yeast infection in their lifetimes.
    Yeast infections produce a thick, white discharge similar to cottage cheese. The discharge can be watery and often has no smell. Yeast infections usually cause the vagina and vulva to become itchy and red.
    Yeast infections are usually treated with an anti-yeast cream or suppository placed inside the vagina. A doctor can write a prescription for most yeast infection treatments.
  2. Bacterial vaginosis (BV): This is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. It is caused by overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina, upsetting the natural balance of bacteria.
    BV will often cause a thin, milky vaginal discharge that may have a ‘fishy’ odour. Many women with bacterial vaginosis have no other symptoms.
    This is treated with an antibiotic that gets rid of the ‘bad’ bacteria and leaves the ‘good’ bacteria. There is no over-the-counter treatment for bacterial vaginosis, so it is important to see your doctor.
  3. Trichomoniasis: This is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by a single-cell parasite. Many women with trichomoniasis do not develop any symptoms, but it can cause vaginal itching, burning, and soreness of the vagina and vulva, as well as burning during urination.
    This needs to be treated by a doctor right away, and it’s important to avoid sexual contact until you and your partner have been treated to prevent spreading the infection. Trichomoniasis is treated by antibiotics from a doctor.
  4. Atrophic vaginitis: This type is a result of reduced estrogen levels, from menopause or in younger women who have had surgery to remove their ovaries. Some women develop the condition immediately after childbirth or while breastfeeding, since estrogen levels are lower at these times.
    The vaginal tissues become thinner and drier, which may lead to itching, burning or pain.
    There are many treatments for vaginal dryness. If symptoms are mild, using a water-soluble vaginal lubricant during intercourse may relieve them. Prescription estrogen is also very effective in treating atrophic vaginitis. For this, it’s best to consult your doctor for appropriate treatment.

With these facts, we hope you can now find out what is really responsible for your suffering. LW

Inconvenienced by Incontinence?
Some conditions like Atrophic vaginitis can also lead to other embarrassing problems like urinary incontinence (UI), which is the accidental release of urine that can happen when you cough, laugh, sneeze, or jog.
Incontinence occurs because of problems with muscles and nerves that help to hold or release urine. Incontinence occurs if the bladder muscles suddenly contract or muscles surrounding the urethra suddenly relax.
There are several types of incontinence that can afflict women.

Stress Incontinence
This is when coughing, laughing, sneezing, or other movements that put pressure on the bladder cause you to leak urine. Physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause often cause stress incontinence.

Urge Incontinence
If you have leakage of large amounts of urine at unexpected times, including during sleep, you may have urge incontinence. A common cause of urge incontinence is inappropriate bladder contractions.

Overactive Bladder
This occurs when abnormal nerves send signals to the bladder at the wrong time, causing its muscles to squeeze without warning. There is increased urinary frequency and urgency, with or without urge incontinence.

Functional Incontinence
Functional incontinence is untimely urination because of physical disability, external obstacles, or problems in thinking or communicating that prevent a person from reaching a toilet.

Overflow Incontinence
Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder doesn’t empty properly, causing it to spill over. Weak bladder muscles or a blocked urethra can cause this type of incontinence.

Mixed Incontinence
Combinations of incontinence are sometimes referred to as mixed incontinence. Most women don’t have pure stress or urge incontinence, and many studies show that mixed incontinence is the most common type of urine loss in women.

Transient incontinence
This is a temporary version of incontinence. Medications, urinary tract infections, mental impairment, and restricted mobility can all trigger transient incontinence.
UI can range from being mildly inconvenient to being totally debilitating. In some cases, the fear of embarrassing themselves in public keeps women from enjoying sports, social activities and can even cause serious problems for their sex life.
Women experience UI twice as often as men. This is largely because women go through pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female urinary tract account. Older women also experience UI more often than younger women.

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