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M. Carter, B.S.
M. Carter, B.S., B.S., University of Georgia
Category: OB GYN
Satisfied Customers: 1335
Experience:  B.S., University of Georgia, Biology/Psychology
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I have vaginal staph infection and want to know more

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I have a vaginal staph infection and would like to know more about it. How serious can it be? Is it contagious? What causes it? Treatments, etc. Please help!

Although "yeast" is the name most women know, bacterial vaginosis is actually the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. Bacterial vaginosis will often cause a vaginal discharge. The discharge is usually thin and milky and is described as having a "fishy" odor. This odor may become more noticeable after intercourse. Redness or itching of the vagina are not common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. It is important to note that many women with bacterial vaginosis have no symptoms at all and the vaginitis is only discovered during a routine gynecologic exam. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by a combination of several bacteria. These bacteria seem to overgrow much the same way as Candida will when the vaginal balance is upset. The exact reason for this overgrowth is not known. Since bacterial vaginosis is caused by bacteria, not by yeast, it is easy to see that different methods are needed to treat the different infections. A medicine that is appropriate for yeast is not effective against the bacteria that causes bacterial vaginosis.

The key to proper treatment of vaginitis is proper diagnosis. This is not always easy since the same symptoms can exist in different forms of vaginitis. You can greatly assist your health care practitioner by paying close attention to exactly which symptoms you have and when they occur, along with a description of the color, consistency, amount, and smell of any abnormal discharge. Do not douche before your office or clinic visit; it will make accurate testing difficult or impossible.

Because different types of vaginitis have different causes, the treatment needs to be specific to the type of vaginitis present. When a woman has had a yeast infection diagnosed by her doctor, she is usually treated with a prescription for a vaginal cream or suppositories. If the infection clears up for some period of time but then the exact same symptoms occur again, a woman can obtain, with her doctor or pharmacist's advice, a vaginal cream or suppository without a prescription that can completely treat the infection. The important thing to understand is that this medication may only cure the most common types of Candida associated with vaginal yeast infections and will not cure other yeast infections or any other type of vaginitis. If you are not absolutely sure, see your doctor. You may save the expense of buying the wrong medication and avoid delay in treating your type of vaginitis.

When obtaining these over-the-counter medicines, be sure to read all of the instructions completely before using the product. Be sure to use all of the medicine and don't stop just because your symptoms have gone away.

Be sure to see your health care practitioner if:

  • All of the symptoms do not go away completely.
  • The symptoms return immediately or shortly after you finish treatment.
  • You have any other serious medical problems such as diabetes.
  • You might be pregnant.

Other forms of infectious vaginitis are caused by organisms that need to be treated with oral medication and/or a vaginal cream prescribed by your doctor. Products available without a prescription will probably not be effective. As with all medicine, it is important to follow your doctor's instructions as well as the instructions that come with the medication. Do not stop taking the medicine when your symptoms go away. Do not be embarrassed to ask your doctor or health care practitioner questions.

Good questions to ask include:

It is okay to douche while on this vaginal cream?

Should you abstain from sexual intercourse during treatment?

Should your sexual partner(s) be treated at the same time?

Will the medication for this vaginitis agree with your other medication(s)?

Should you continue the vaginal cream or suppositories during your period?

Do you need to be reexamined and if so, when?

Customer: replied 10 years ago.

I already know all this general stuff and i have been to the doctor and have been treated for months. I recently switched to a gynecologist because the problem was not getting taken care of. I was specifically asking about a vaginal staph infection. Is it also just another form of vaginitis. If it is, then okay. People were just telling me that a staph infection can be dangerous and i was just wondering about it. But my new doctor is much better at explaining and answering my questions so if he finds any traces of it left I am sure that he will inform me about it.

I'm glad you've since found a doctor who is more thorough in addressing your concerns. What you need to have done here is a cervical swab to determine what organism/organisms is causing the infection if this has not been done yet. The fluid collected is sent to a lab, where they culture it on petri dishes. If an excessive amount of bacteria or fungus grows, they can be identified with biochemical tests, and then tiny samples of antibiotics/antifungals can tested against your culture in the lab to determine what works best (this is called a "culture and sensitivity"), and I used to do it for a living with pet samples.

The important thing to realize here is that bacteria and yeast are both normally present in the vaginal canal, even in healthy people. This includes pesky staph bacteria and notorious yeast, but is not a problem at all unless an overgrowth occurs. Some amount of bacteria/yeast is necessary for normal functioning, and the levels that grow are usually kept in check by your immune system and the pH and acidity of your vagina. A healthy vaginal environment is such that some bacteria and yeast are capable of growing. However, very subtle changes in this environment can throw this delicate balance out of whack, and allow too much of an organism to grow.

Any of the following may be happening with you:

  • Minor illness
  • Weakened immune system (even if it's only subtle)
  • Inserting anything into the vagina can alter the pH or introduce bacteria--douches, tampons, having sex, semen, fingers, lubricants, spermicides, and even menstrual flow can affect the pH and acidity enough to cause an overgrowth and subsequent infection
  • Trauma to the lining of the vagina, as with rough sex or viral changes
  • Sensitivities to detergents, soaps, and perfumes
  • Wearing pads, which creates a sweaty, warm, moist environment that bacteria and fungus LOVE
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress, diet, exercise

As a result of any of the above, women can develop chronic or recurrent vaginal infections caused by yeast, bacteria, and in many cases, both types of organisms can be present simultaneously. If this is the case, BOTH antibiotics and antifungals are needed, because antibiotics will do nothing to fungus, and antifungals will do nothing to bacteria. The best way to determine this is with a cervical culture or smear, as mentioned above. For a bacterial staph infection (or any bacterial infection), a 7-10 day course of oral antibiotics or gel will do the trick. For recurrent yeast infections (either alone, or with a bacterial vaginitis), a great treatment for this is taking several doses of the medication Diflucan. In occasional yeast infections, usually one dose of Diflucan is sufficient, but a course of several weeks, or even months is appropriate if this infectoin has been going on for a long time, or seems to come and go ad infanatum. There are also creams and vaginal suppositories for yeast infections, both presciption and over-the-counter. For bad or recurrent ones, however, I would go with Diflucan.

To answer your question, though, a vaginal staph infection is indeed a very common form of bacterial vaginitis (or vaginosis). Everyone has staph all over their skin at all times, and it's extremely easy for some to get in the vaginal canal and cause an infection. The only potentially-dangerous form of staph infection that you've probably heard about is the MRSA strain, which is resistant to many of the antibiotics (it stands for methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus). It's very contagious and more difficult to treat, but is usually found in skin abscesses and in hospital settings. I doubt you have a vaginal MRSA infection, but again, a culture can determine this. Even if it is MRSA, the treatment is basically the same, and requires a course of antibiotics.

I had the same problem a few years ago that I think you're experiencing now. In my case, I had both yeast infections and bacterial infections at the same time. Doctors kept giving me treatments for one or the other (guesswork), and it was never completely effective, and would just come back in severity. After I had a culture and smear done, however, one GYN noticed that yeast and bacteria were present simultaneously. I used oral Diflucan one a week for 3 months (as opposed to the standard single-dose treatment) to "restart" my yeast balance, and also took the antibiotic mitronidazole in both pill and cream forms. I have not had any problems since this treatment, and that was about two years ago.

Some tips to help prevent and treat:

  • If you're sexually active, try to shower with your partner before sex, and clean the area around the genitals on both partners (as this may reduce the amount of staph and other bacteria that's introduced into the vagina). Clean condoms without extra lubricant or spermicide help too.
  • Do not douche... ever! Use mild soap and warm water for that area, and never spray with perfumes or deodorants, or use perfumed feminine products
  • Use clean, unscented tampons, rather than pads, and change them often. Pads are excellent breeding grounds for bacteria/yeast and might cause problems.
  • Wipe properly--from front to back. The other way around may introduce bacteria from the rectal area and cause various bacterial vaginal infections
  • Don't self-medicate without knowing the symptoms and differences between bacterial and fungal infections. Yeast infections have white discharge that's clumpy and "yeasty-smelling," whereas bacterial infections are pasty or watery, white, green, or yellow in color, and foul smelling (described as "fishy" by some women). There's nothing over-the-counter that will treat a bacterial infection, but monistat products can be used for yeast. Also, remember that both types of infections can occur at the same time, and this might make distinguishing between them difficult.
  • You can use hydrocortizone creams or benzocaine creams/gels (vagisil) over the counter for relief of itching, swelling, and burning. This just treats symptoms, and you will still need to see a doctor for proper treatment.

Sorry for writing a book, but I hope it helps. Let me know if you have any more questions about this. I'll be online periodically to check for new messages, and will answer you as soon as possible.

M. Carter, B.S., B.S., University of Georgia
Category: OB GYN
Satisfied Customers: 1335
Experience: B.S., University of Georgia, Biology/Psychology
M. Carter, B.S. and other OB GYN Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 years ago.

Thank you so much. This answer was incredibly helpful. i have a bad recurring yeast infection as well as vaginitis infection. i am being treated for the vaginitis now for a third time. taking the diflucan regularly for a certain amount of time sounds like a real solution to the yeast infection. i have been prescribed a few diflucans but it has been pretty sporadic. is diflucan perscription only? also the advise on not using pads is very helpful. my mom is totally against tampons, so i have been wondering wich would be worse for my infection.

i am not sexually active now but i am getting married and am wondering if having sex will immediately mess me up again. should i wait and give it some time or what?