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Genital infections

Genital infections can have several causes. Genital infection is a collective term for disorders that cause symptoms to the genitals, such as STDs, genital fungal infections or bacterial vaginosis. Genital infections occur in both men and women and are fortunately very treatable.


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What are genital infections?

Genital infections are infections of the vagina or penis. Many genital infections are caused by an STD. These include chlamydia and syphilis, for example, or gonorrhoea. These conditions are spread through unsafe sex. You can catch them if you have sex without a condom.

However, not all genital infections are STDs. Candida infection (yeast infection) is an example of this, as is bacterial vaginosis. You can also get these conditions without sex being part of the picture. As a result, they do not fall under the category of venereal diseases.

Genital infection symptoms

Genital infections cause symptoms to the vagina or penis. The most common general symptoms of genital infections are:

  • Irritation, itchiness or pain on/in the vagina or penis;
  • Pain and/or burning sensation while urinating or having sex;
  • Discharge from the penis or vagina. Vaginal discharge may vary in quantity, colour, odour and/or texture;
  • Bumps, ulcers or scabs on or around the genital organs;
  • Redness and/or swelling in the genital area, for example the labia or the glans.

The specific symptoms of a genital infection vary from case to case. The symptoms you may experience will depend on the cause of the infection.

Men can also experience different symptoms than women. Only women suffer from the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, for example. It is possible for men to get infected, but they usually don't notice it.

Cause of genital infections

You may get a genital infection from having unsafe or unprotected sex. If the genitals come into contact with each other, for instance, or if your hand or fingers touch or enter the genitals of an infected person. Oral and anal sex can also cause certain STDs to spread. In some cases, even contact with a dirty towel can cause an infection.

In STDs, the cause of genital infection is a bacterium (syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia), a virus (herpes genitalis, genital warts) or a parasite (trichomonas).

Candida infection (yeast infection)

Genital fungal infections are caused by a proliferating fungus. It is usually the fungus known as candida albicans. This fungus occurs naturally on the skin, but in this case has started to proliferate, causing an infection. This fungal infection is often referred to as a yeast infection, thrush, or simply candida.

Bacterial genital infections

In genital infections caused by bacterial vaginosis, a certain type of bacteria has gained the upper hand. It is usually the bacterium Gardnerella vaginalis. This bacterium also occurs naturally on and in the vagina.

Preventing genital infections

To prevent genital infections caused by an STD, safe sex is important. Therefore, always use a condom. Also always pay attention to hygiene: do not share sex toys, and always use your own towel and washcloths.

Genital fungal infections and bacterial vaginosis can be prevented by minimising the disturbance of the natural balance of fungi, yeasts and bacteria in the pubic area. For example, this balance can be disturbed by the use of soap, creams or lotions in this area. But hormonal fluctuations (menstruation, menopause), sex and certain clothing can also cause too much change to the balance between fungi, yeasts and bacteria.

A few tips to prevent genital fungal infections and bacterial vaginosis:

  • Do not wash the genitals with soap. Rinsing with lukewarm water is best.
  • Do not use sprays or deodorant in the pubic area.
  • Wear cotton underwear and clothing. Synthetic fabrics do not absorb moisture. In a humid environment, fungi, bacteria and yeasts can grow more rapidly.
  • Use a lubricant during sex if the vagina is dry. This prevents irritation or damage to the mucous membrane.
  • Change panty liners, sanitary towels (pads) and tampons regularly.
  • Do not wear tight trousers.

Testing for genital infections

Are you suffering from symptoms that indicate a genital infection, but you are not sure what the cause is? Then a test can offer a solution.

An STD test can provide information on sexually transmitted diseases. You can take an STD test via your doctor. Self-tests are also available for most STDs.

Bacterial vaginosis and candida infection can also be detected by means of a (self-)test.

If you have a genital infection, please inform your partner so that he or she can also be tested and treated. This will also prevent the disease from spreading further.

Medication for genital infection treatment

Most genital infections can be treated effectively with medication. The medicine you receive will depend on the cause of the infection.

Treatment of genital infections caused by STDs

Do you have a genital infection caused by an STD? Then there are different treatment options:

  • Antibiotics. Genital infections due to the STDs gonorrhoea, chlamydia, trichomonas and syphilis are treated with antibiotics. For example, azithromycin, doxycycline or ciprofloxacin;
  • Antiviral drugs. Genital infections due to the STDs herpes genitalis and genital warts are treated with a viral inhibitor, also known as an antiviral. For example, imiquimod or acyclovir.

Treatment of genital infections

A genital fungal infection such as candida is fought with a fungicidal drug, such as:

  • Miconazole;
  • Fluconazole;
  • Clotrimazole.

Treatment for candida or genital fungal infection is often a local treatment. Vaginal suppositories or capsules are available for women. A fungicidal cream is sufficient for men. In persistent cases, a doctor may also prescribe a tablet or capsule to take.

Treatment of genital infection caused by bacterial vaginosis

Doctors usually treat bacterial vaginosis with a specific type of antibiotic. Examples include:

  • Metronidazole (to be taken orally or as a vaginal suppository);
  • Clindamycin (as a cream for vaginal use).

These medicines kill the bacteria that cause the symptoms.

Important information for genital infection treatment

When treating genital infections, consider the following:

  • Medications for genital infections can cause side effects. If you take antibiotics or antivirals, you may experience gastrointestinal problems or headaches, for example. If you get a cream, vaginal suppositories or vaginal capsules, the side effects include local discomfort such as itching or a burning sensation in or on the genitals.
  • Always finish the course of treatment completely. If you stop taking the medicine sooner, not all pathogens will be killed. The genital infection can then return.
  • Always read the package leaflet before using the medicine. It will tell you how to use the medicine, what side effects may occur and what other warnings apply.

Prescription for genital infection medicines

Many medicines for genital infections require a prescription. You can request a suitable course of treatment at Dokteronline. Your request will be assessed by a doctor based on the medical questionnaire you have completed. A written prescription will then be forwarded to a pharmacy, after which the prescribed medication will be discreetly delivered to your home. Would you like more information about treatments for genital infections? Feel free to consult a doctor or pharmacist.

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