Vaginitis describes a number of conditions that can cause
infection or inflammation of your vagina. Vulvovaginitis describes inflammation
of both your vagina and your vulva. Your vulva is the external part of your genitals.
What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal Infections?
Some vaginal infections may not produce any symptoms. If you
develop symptoms, the most common are:
- vaginal itching
- change in the amount of discharge from your
- change in the color of discharge from your
- pain or burning during urination
- pain during intercourse
- vaginal bleeding or spotting
The symptoms of vaginal infections will also vary based on the
cause of your infection:
- Bacterial infections typically cause
grayish-white or yellow discharge. This discharge may have a fish-like odor
that’s easily noticed after sex.
- Yeast infections typically produce itching. If
discharge is present, it may be thick and white and look like cottage cheese.
- Trichomoniasis is a condition that can produce
vaginal itching and odor. Discharge from this infection is typically
greenish-yellow and may be frothy.
Vaginal infections are not life-threatening conditions. However,
you should make an appointment to see your doctor if you:
- have never had a vaginal infection before
- have had a vaginal infection but are
experiencing new symptoms
- have had different or new sexual partners
- develop a fever
- believe you may be pregnant
- have symptoms that return after treatment
If you experience vaginal irritation and have been diagnosed with
yeast infections in the past, you may not need to see your doctor. Yeast
infections can be treated at home with over-the-counter vaginal antifungal
medications. However, if you’re not sure that you have a yeast infection, it’s
always wise to check with your doctor.
What Causes Vaginal Infections?
Vaginal infections can have a number of causes. If you develop a
vaginal infection, your doctor will diagnose and treat your infection based on
its cause. Common causes of vaginal infections include:
infections: Certain bacteria are commonly found in your vagina. Overgrowth
of these bacteria can cause bacterial vaginosis.
infections: Yeast infections are usually caused by a fungus called Candida
albicans. Many things, including antibiotics, can reduce the number of
antifungal bacteria in your vagina. This reduction can lead to an overgrowth of
fungi and cause an infection.
This vaginal infection is caused by a protozoan parasite that can be contracted
through sexual intercourse.
atrophy: This condition commonly occurs after menopause. It can also develop
during other times in your life when your estrogen levels decline, such as
while breastfeeding. Reduced hormone levels can cause vaginal thinning and
dryness. These can lead to inflammation of your vagina.
- Irritants: Soaps,
body washes, perfumes, and vaginal contraceptives can all irritate your vagina.
This can cause inflammation. Tight-fitting clothes may also cause heat rashes that
irritate your vagina.
In some cases, your doctor may not be able to determine the cause
of your vaginal infection. This condition is known as nonspecific
vulvovaginitis. It can occur in women of any age. It’s more common in young
girls that have not entered puberty.
How Are Vaginal Infections Diagnosed?
To diagnose a vaginal infection, your doctor will ask you about
your health history. They will ask about your current number of sexual partners
and your history of past vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections
Your doctor may also perform a pelvic exam. During this exam,
your doctor may collect a sample of vaginal discharge. They’ll send this sample
to a laboratory for analysis. This can help your doctor learn what’s causing
How Are Vaginal Infections Treated?
Treatment for vaginal infections will depend on what’s causing
your infection. For example:
tablets, metronidazole cream or gel, or clindamycin
cream or gel may be prescribed for a bacterial infection.
- Antifungal creams or suppositories may be
prescribed for a yeast infection.
tablets may be prescribed for trichomoniasis.
creams or tablets may be prescribed for vaginal atrophy.
If your infection is caused by an irritant, such as soap, your
doctor will recommend a different product to reduce irritation.
What Is the Outlook If You Develop This Condition?
Treatment for vaginal infections is generally very effective.
Proper diagnosis will ensure that you receive the right treatment.
How Can You Prevent Vaginal Infections?
Not all vaginal infections can be prevented. Using a condom
during sexual intercourse will help prevent the spread of STIs. It will also
lower your risk of contracting them.
Proper hygiene can also help prevent some vaginal infections.
When possible, you should wear cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton
crotch. This can lower your risk of developing vaginal inflammation and
irritation. Some women develop inflammation and irritation from wearing less