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How do vaginal infections affect the body?

Other than irritation to the vagina, vaginal infections don't generally affect the rest of the body greatly. Occasionally, vaginal infections can have an effect on pregnancies, causing early delivery. It is important to note that having a vaginal infection can increase your risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections. Also, some types of vaginal infections can be transmitted via sexual contact.

Vaginal infections themselves are not life-threatening. However, complications can result if vaginal infections are not treated. Women with vaginal infections are at greater risk for sexually transmitted infections and for pelvic inflammatory disease. Untreated vaginal infections put pregnant women at risk for early childbirth and uterine infections.

Dr. Kevin W. Windom, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Vaginal infections can affect the body if the bacteria or yeast ascends into the cervix and uterus or possibly get into the blood stream. It is rare for vaginal yeast infections to get into the blood stream, but it is not uncommon for a bacteria of the vagina to become a systemic or total body infection. It is very worrisome for patients with gonorrhea or chlamydia because these infections can ascend through the cervix and into the uterus and up the fallopian tubes. If the infection goes up the fallopian tubes and into the abdomen, it can cause a severe infection. Also, as these infections traverse through the uterus and fallopian tubes, they can cause severe scarring and possible infertility.

Usually vaginal infections are not life threatening. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can arise in the vagina, and if left untreated, it can move into the blood stream and go to the liver and to the brain causing severe problems. Syphilis is easily treated with penicillin antibiotics.

Marcy Holmes, MSN, NP
Nursing Specialist

Most simple yeast or bacterial vaginal infections do not cause great harm or serious risk, but they can leave the cervix raw and vaginal tissue overall more vulnerable to contracting other more serious infections like HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea or even syphilis. The compounded events can lead to greater risks.

There is the concern for the certain types of infections traveling upward from the vagina, causing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). As a PID infection is ascending into the uterus and fallopian tubes it can be quite serious, depending on the severity of the infection and the individuals’ immune system—it could be life threatening itself or complications could arise later that are.

Scar tissue in the tubes from a former infection can also make you at greater risk for an Ectopic or tubal pregnancy which is also life threatening.

If you have concerns about the seriousness of your vaginal infection or symptoms you may be experiencing- see your GYN practitioner or healthcare provider locally for prompt attention.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.