What is Vaginitis
Vaginitis is 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. Vaginitis can also result from reduced estrogen levels after menopause.
The most common types of vaginitis are:
- Bacterial vaginosis, which results from overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina
- Yeast infections, which are usually caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans
- Trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite and is commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse
- Vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis), which results from reduced estrogen levels after menopause
Treatment depends on the type of vaginitis you have.
- Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina.
- Symptoms of vaginitis include vaginal pain or discomfort, itching, discharge, and odor. Pain with urination or during sexual intercourse is also common.
- Vaginitis may be due to infections or non-infectious causes.
- Infectious vaginitis may be due to bacteria, fungi, or the parasitic organism known as Trichomonas.
- Infectious vaginitis should be treated with antibiotics.
- Vaginitis can also be related to physical or chemical irritation of the vagina.
- Some infectious causes of vaginitis are sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), but not all vaginal infections are sexually-transmitted.
- Vaginitis in pregnancy should be treated to avoid complications for mother and baby.
Symptoms of Vaginitis
Vaginitis signs and symptoms 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
The characteristics of vaginal discharge may indicate the type of vaginitis you have. Examples include:
- Bacterial vaginosis. You may develop a grayish-white, foul-smelling discharge. The odor, often described as fish-like, may be more obvious after sexual intercourse.
- Yeast infection. The main symptom is itching, but you may have a white, thick discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
- Trichomoniasis. An infection called trichomoniasis (trik-o-moe-NIE-uh-sis) can cause a greenish yellow, sometimes frothy discharge.
What Causes of Vaginitis?
- Bacterial vaginosis is the most common bacterial infection that causes vaginitis. This condition results from an imbalance of overgrowth in the bacteria normally present in the vagina. It is not clear if sexual activity plays a role in the development of bacterial vaginosis, and some experts believe it can occur in women who have not had sexual contact. The STDs gonorrhea and Chlamydia are other bacterial causes of vaginitis.
- Yeast infections, such as Candida infection, are a common cause of vaginitis. Yeast infections are not considered to be STDs.
- Trichomonas (“Trich”) is a parasitic infection that is transmitted through sexual contact.
- Non-infectious causes of vaginitis include physical or chemical irritation, such as:
- Douches, soaps, or fragrances
- Reduced estrogen levels around the time of menopause
Vaginitis in young girls has also been described and is thought to arise from poor hygiene practices that allow the spread of fecal bacteria from the anal area into the vagina.
The Risk Factor of Vaginitis
Factors that increase your risk of developing vaginitis include:
- 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
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Use of hygiene products such as bubble bath, vaginal spray or vaginal deodorant
- Wearing damp or tight-fitting clothing
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
How is vaginitis diagnosed?
The symptoms and signs of vaginitis strongly suggest the diagnosis. At the time of diagnosis, a pelvic examination is typically performed that may include removal of a sample of vaginal discharge. The sample may be viewed under the microscope to look for Trichomonas organisms, or it may be sent to a laboratory for culture or other specialized tests to identify infectious organisms.
What is the treatment for vaginitis?
The treatment for vaginitis depends upon its cause. Infectious vaginitis is treated with antibiotic medications. Bacterial vaginitis is treated either with oral antibiotics, intra-vaginal antibiotic creams, or injections (shots) of antibiotics. Treatment guidelines are always updated to reflect the patterns of resistance to antibiotics of circulating bacterial strains.