Vaginitis is infection or
inflammation of the
vagina. It can cause itching and burning, a change in
vaginal discharge, and sometimes pain during sex.
What causes vaginitis?
Vaginitis may be caused by
bacteria, yeast, or other organisms. Bath products, douches, and spermicides
also can irritate the
vagina and cause itching and discomfort.
The three most common types of vaginitis and their causes are:
Yeast infection. A
healthy vagina normally contains a small number of yeast cells, along with a
certain number of bacteria. Normally there aren't enough of the yeast cells to
cause problems. But sometimes something happens to the vagina that lets the
yeast cells multiply quickly and take over, causing symptoms. Taking
antibiotics sometimes causes this. Being pregnant,
taking birth control pills that contain estrogen, or having
hormone therapy can also cause it. So can
some health problems, like
Bacterial vaginosis. This happens when some
of the bacteria normally found in the vagina are able to multiply quickly, causing symptoms. Experts are not sure what causes this. But certain
things make it more likely to happen. These include having more than one sex
partner, having a female sex partner, having a
sexually transmitted infection, using an IUD for birth
control, and douching.
is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a
parasite. You get it by having sex with someone who
has it. It is commonly called trich (say "trick").
Another type of vaginitis is atrophic vaginitis. This is
an irritation of the vagina caused by thinning tissues and less moisture in the
vaginal walls. This often occurs with menopause as a result of the decrease in
the hormone estrogen. Surgery to remove the ovaries can have the same effect.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of vaginitis may
A change in your normal vaginal discharge,
including gray, green, or yellow discharge.
swelling, itching, or pain.
Pain or bleeding when you have sex.
How is vaginitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will check
your vagina for redness and swelling and will take a sample of vaginal
discharge. The sample can be tested in a lab to see what is causing the
How is it treated?
If you are pregnant, talk with
your doctor if you have any symptoms. Some problems can affect your pregnancy,
so it is important to talk with your doctor and get the right treatment.
Yeast infection: If
you have had a yeast infection before and can recognize the symptoms, and you
aren't pregnant, you can treat yourself at home with medicines you can buy
without a prescription. You can use an antifungal cream or suppository that you
put into your vagina. Or your doctor may prescribe antifungal tablets that you
Bacterial vaginosis: Doctors
usually use antibiotics to treat this problem. It is usually a mild problem.
But it can lead to more serious problems, so it's a good idea to see your
doctor and get treatment.
This infection is also treated with antibiotics. Both you and your sex partner
Atrophic vaginitis: This
usually is treated with estrogen creams or tablets.
How can you prevent vaginitis?
Do not take antibiotics unless you really
Do not douche.
Do not use feminine deodorant
sprays or other perfumed products in or around your vagina.
your period, change tampons at least 3 times a day, or switch between tampons
and pads. Don't leave tampons in for more than 8 hours. And be sure to remove
the last tampon you use.
Use a condom during sex. Limit your number
of sex partners.
Other Places To Get Help
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.