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Vaginal symptoms are one of the most common
reasons for which women seek medical care. Vaginal complaints account for
approximately 10 million medical office visits per year. Most vaginal symptoms
are not a sign of a serious disease such as cancer or AIDS, and the majority
of such symptoms are not due to a sexually transmitted disease. The March
17, 2004, issue of JAMA includes an article about
diagnosing vaginal symptoms.
Diagnosing vaginal symptoms
The vagina and surrounding areas are examined for
redness or inflammation.
A sample of any discharge is taken for testing
and observation under a microscope.
Common causes of vaginal symptoms
inflammation of the vagina caused by bacteria, this condition is responsible
for 40% to 50% of vaginal symptoms. Symptoms often include a fishy-smelling
discharge and itching or burning in the vagina.
with Trichomonas, a protozoan organism, is a common
sexually transmitted disease (STD). The most common symptoms are a yellow,
frothy discharge and pain during intercourse. About 15% to 20% of vaginal
symptoms are caused by trichomoniasis.
known as a yeast infection, this condition is caused
by an overgrowth of fungus that occurs naturally in the vagina and accounts
for about 20% to 25% of vaginal symptoms. Women often experience intense vaginal
itching and a thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge.
Antibiotic or antifungal medications can be taken
orally, applied to the vagina as creams or gels, or inserted into the vagina
Women whose vaginal symptoms have not been diagnosed
should not use over-the-counter therapies until they have a medical evaluation
to determine the cause.
Preventing vaginal infections
Using a condom can help prevent sexually transmitted
diseases, including trichomoniasis, and a condom should always be used if
you are being treated for trichomoniasis to prevent reinfection by your partner.
Avoid using douches and vaginal deodorant sprays.
For more information
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 800/762-2264 http://www.acog.org
National Women's Health Information Center 800/994-WOMAN
To find this and other JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link
on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com.
A Patient Page on screening and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases
was published in the January 3, 2001, issue.
Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Child Health &
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page
are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical
diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page
may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals
to share with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject
to AMA approval. To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
TOPIC: WOMEN'S HEALTH
Parmet S, Lynm C, Glass RM. Vaginal Symptoms. JAMA. 2004;291(11):1406. doi:10.1001/jama.291.11.1406
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