Definition

What is vaginitis?

Vaginitis is a condition that occurs when you have an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain. The cause is usually a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria or an infection. Reduced estrogen levels after menopause and some skin disorders can also cause vaginitis.

The most common types of vaginitis are bacterial vaginosis, which results from a change of the normal bacteria found in your vagina to overgrowth of other organisms; or yeast infections, which are usually caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans; and Trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite and is commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse

Treatment depends on the type of vaginitis you have.

How common is vaginitis?

Vaginitis is very common. Most women will have some kind of vaginitis at least once in their lives.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of vaginitis?

Some common signs and symptoms of vaginitis may include:

  • Change in color, odor or amount of discharge from your vagina
  • Vaginal itching or irritation
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Painful urination
  • Light vaginal bleeding or spotting

If you have vaginal discharge, which many women don’t, the characteristics of the discharge might help you detect the type of vaginitis you have. Examples include:

Bacterial vaginosis

You might develop a grayish-white, foul-smelling discharge. The odor, often described as a fishy odor, might be more obvious after sexual intercourse.

Yeast infection

The main symptom is itching, but you might have a white, thick discharge that resembles cottage cheese.

Trichomoniasis

An infection called trichomoniasis can cause a greenish-yellow, sometimes frothy discharge.  

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You have a particularly unpleasant vaginal odor, discharge or itching.
  • You’ve never had a vaginal infection. Seeing your doctor can establish the cause and help you learn to identify the signs and symptoms.
  • You’ve had vaginal infections before.
  • You’ve had multiple sex partners or a recent new partner. You could have a sexually transmitted infection. Some sexually transmitted infections have signs and symptoms similar to those of a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
  • You’ve completed a course of over-the-counter anti-yeast medication and your symptoms persist.
  • You have a fever, chills or pelvic pain.

Causes

What causes vaginitis?

Some common possible causes of vaginitis include:

Bacterial vaginosis

This most common cause of vaginitis results from a change of the normal bacteria found in your vagina, to overgrowth of one of several other organisms.

This type of vaginitis seems to be linked to sexual intercourse, especially if you have multiple sex partners or a new sex partner, but it also occurs in women who aren’t sexually active.

Yeast infections

These occur when there’s an overgrowth of a fungal organism in your vagina. C. albicans also causes infections in other moist areas of your body, such as in your mouth (thrush), skin folds and nail beds.

Trichomoniasis

This common sexually transmitted infection is caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who has the infection.

Noninfectious vaginitis

Vaginal sprays, douches, perfumed soaps, scented detergents and spermicidal products may cause an allergic reaction or irritate vulvar and vaginal tissues. Foreign objects, such as tissue paper or forgotten tampons, in the vagina can also irritate vaginal tissues.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for vaginitis?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy, birth control pills or menopause
  • Sexual activity
  • Having a sexually transmitted infection
  • Medications, such as antibiotics and steroids
  • Use of spermicides for birth control
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Use of hygiene products such as bubble bath, vaginal spray or vaginal deodorant
  • Douching
  • Wearing damp or tightfitting clothing
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is vaginitis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you experience vaginitis, he/she will perform a vaginal exam to determine this condition. Then your doctor may recommend you some tests such as:

  • Collect a sample for lab testing:Your doctor might collect a sample of cervical or vaginal discharge for lab testing to confirm what kind of vaginitis you have.
  • Perform pH testing:Your doctor might test your vaginal pH by applying a pH test stick or pH paper to the wall of your vagina. An elevated pH can indicate either bacteria vaginosis or trichomoniasis. However, pH testing alone is not a reliable diagnostic test.

How is vaginitis treated?

After your doctor diagnoses vaginitis, he/she may recommend you some treatment options and depending on the causes of vaginitis, the treatment will be determined:

Bacterial vaginosis

For this type of vaginitis, your doctor may prescribe metronidazole. You’ll need to get tested and be given a prescription for these medications.

Yeast infections

Yeast infections usually are treated with an over-the-counter antifungal cream or suppository, such as miconazole (Monistat 1), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin), butoconazole (Femstat 3) or tioconazole (Vagistat-1).

Trichomoniasis

Your doctor may prescribe metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax) tablets.

Noninfectious vaginitis

To treat this type of vaginitis, you need to pinpoint the source of the irritation and avoid it. Possible sources include new soap, laundry detergent, sanitary napkins or tampons.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage vaginitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with vaginitis:

  • Avoid baths, hot tubs and whirlpool spas.
  • Avoid irritants. These include scented tampons, pads, douches and scented soaps. Rinse soap from your outer genital area after a shower, and dry the area well to prevent irritation. Don’t use harsh soaps, such as those with deodorant or antibacterial action, or bubble bath.
  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet. Doing so avoids spreading fecal bacteria to your vagina.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 18, 2017 | Last Modified: July 18, 2017

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