What is vulvovaginitis?
Vulvovaginitis is an inflammation or infection of the vulva
and vagina. It’s a common condition that affects women and girls of all ages,
and it has a variety of causes. Other names for this condition are vulvitis and
Bacterial vulvovaginitis will affect nearly 30 percent of
women during their lifetime, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Yeast infections are even more
prevalent, affecting an estimated 3 out of 4 women during their
What causes vulvovaginitis?
can cause an infection in the vagina and vulval areas. The most common cause is
bacteria. The following can also cause vulvoganitis:
- environmental factors
- sexually transmitted infections
- exposure to allergens
- chemical irritants
bacteria can multiply and can cause vulvovaginitis. These bacteria include
Streptococcus, Gardnerella, and Staphylococcus. A bacterial infection
can cause a grayish-white discharge that smells fishy.
the most common causes of vulvovaginitis is Candida albicans. This
yeast infection can cause genital itching and a thick, white vaginal discharge
that is similar to cottage cheese. A yeast infection often follows the use of
antibiotics. Antibiotics can kill the antifungal bacteria that normally live in
the vagina. This can lead to a yeast infection.
that can cause vulvovaginitis are typically sexually transmitted. These include
herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV).
scabies, and lice can cause inflammation of the vulva and vagina.
hygiene and allergens can cause this condition. Tight clothing can rub against
the skin and create irritation. Irritated skin is more susceptible to vulvovaginitis
than normal skin. Irritation can also delay recovery.
sexually transmitted infection (STI) trichomonas vaginitis can also cause
vulvovaginitis. This causes genital discomfort, itching, and heavy discharge.
The discharge can be yellow, green, or gray. It often has a strong odor.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes can also cause vaginitis. These infections in
a child might indicate abuse.
chemicals can cause vulvovaginitis. These often appear in the form of
sprays, perfume, and vaginal contraceptives. Common chemicals that can cause an
allergic reaction include:
- sodium sulfate
If any of
these ingredients are in your soaps or laundry detergent, you may want to
switch to a hypoallergenic or fragrance-free brand. This can keep your
infection from recurring.
Vulvovaginitis in children
is the most common gynecological condition in
prepubescent girls. Doctors believe this is due to low estrogen levels.
puberty begins, the vagina becomes more acidic and the infections usually stop.
Prior to puberty, the infection can be treated with daily bathing, steroids, and
low-dose, topical antibiotics. The child should also be advised on proper
bathroom hygiene. Wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear can keep the infection
from occurring again.
What are the symptoms of vulvovaginitis?
symptoms of vulvovaginitis vary and depend on their cause. In general, symptoms
- irritation of the genital area
- inflammation around the labia and
- an increased, strong-smelling
- discomfort while urinating
How is vulvovaginitis diagnosed?
will diagnose vulvovaginitis by discussing your symptoms and possibly
collecting a sample of vaginal discharge to test.
cases, the doctor will need to perform a pelvic examination. A wet prep may be
necessary to correctly identify the cause of your inflammation. This involves
collecting some vaginal discharge for microscopic evaluation. The doctor can then
identify the organism, which makes treatment quicker and more successful.
cases, it may be necessary to biopsy the vulva to identify the organism. This
means the doctor will take a small sample of tissue for further examination. A
biopsy is usually only necessary if traditional methods are unsuccessful or
there are suspicious areas.
How is vulvovaginitis treated?
correct treatment for vulvovaginitis depends on the type of infection and the
organism causing the problems. It’s possible to treat some types of
vulvovaginitis on your own. However, you should speak with a healthcare
provider before initiating any treatment.
have had a yeast infection in the past, you may be able to treat vulvovaginitis
using over-the-counter products available at any pharmacy. Vaginal creams,
suppositories, topical ointments, and oral pills are available to treat
vulvovaginitis. Crushed garlic and coconut oil, both known for their
antibacterial properties, may also work as home remedies.
pharmacist may be able to advise you on the best product for your symptoms and
how to apply the product. Consult your doctor if the inflammation or discharge isn’t
better after a week of home treatment.
be able to relieve some of the symptoms of your vulvovaginitis by sitting in a
sitz bath, a warm, shallow bath in which the water only covers your hip area.
Adding tea tree oil or a trace amount of vinegar or sea salt to the bath may
help kill some of the bacteria, if that is what is causing your symptoms. Be
careful not to sit in the bath too long, and use a towel to dry the affected area
completely after your bath is complete.
your doctor identifies the type of organism causing your vulvovaginitis, they
will prescribe medication.
- oral antibiotics
- antibiotic creams applied directly
to the skin
- antifungal creams applied directly
to the skin
- antibacterial creams applied
directly to the skin
- oral antihistamines, if an
allergic reaction is a possibility
- estrogen creams
- oral antifungal pills
doctor may also recommend a personal hygiene routine to help heal the infection
and prevent it from recurring. This could include taking sitz baths and wiping
properly after using the toilet.
suggestions include wearing loose clothing and cotton underwear to allow the
circulation of air and to reduce moisture. Removing underwear at bedtime may
cleansing is important and may help prevent irritation. This is especially true
if the infection is bacterial. Avoid using bubble baths, perfumed soaps, and
washing powders as much as possible. Opt for sitz baths instead. You may also
find sensitive-skin versions of these products less irritating.
compress is useful to relieve pain on swollen or tender areas.
important to alert your sexual partners if your vulvovaginitis is the result of
an STI. All sexual partners should receive treatment for the condition, even if
they’re not currently showing symptoms.
What is the outlook for vulvovaginitis?
cases of vulvovaginitis will heal quickly when properly treated. Return to your
doctor if you don’t see an improvement within one week. You may find that
alternative treatments are more effective.
infections and bacterial infections are not transmitted sexually. For this
reason, it is not necessary to abstain from sex during treatment if your
vulvovaginitis is caused by yeast or bacteria. But if you have an STI or virus,
you should wait until you and your partner have completed treatment and have no
more symptoms before resuming sex, according to the Mayo Clinic.
is causing your vulvovaginitis, you may find that the infection returns.
Over-the-counter products can usually treat these infections.