Vaginitis is the medical name for swelling, burning, itching, or an infection of the vagina. When the vulva are also affected, it is called vulvovaginitis. The vulva are the folds of skin around the opening of the vagina. Vaginitis is a very common problem that can occur in females of any age.
Vaginitis can be caused by organisms that infect the vagina, such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, or yeast. It can also be caused by irritants such as soap, powders, or spermicides.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs) that cause vaginal infections are:
Yeast infections of the vagina are caused by overgrowth of a fungus called Candida. Vaginitis can also be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria normally found in the vagina. This is a condition called bacterial vaginosis or nonspecific vaginitis.
Irritants that can cause vaginitis include:
Vaginitis can also be caused by stress, poor hygiene, or a decrease in estrogen hormone (atrophic vaginitis).
Sometimes the cause of vaginitis is not known.
The main symptom of vaginitis is a lot of whitish, gray, or yellowish discharge from the vagina. Some milky vaginal discharge is normal for females of all ages, but infections usually cause an abnormal amount of discharge.
You may also have:
If you have pain in your lower abdomen or irregular bleeding with these symptoms, see your healthcare provider right away. If you are at risk for a sexually transmitted disease and have the above symptoms, you should also see your provider right away.
Your healthcare provider will examine you and do lab tests. The lab tests may include tests of vaginal discharge, urine, and blood.
The goal of treatment is to get rid of the organisms or irritants that are causing the symptoms.
Infections are treated with antibiotic pills or shots, antifungal or antibacterial creams or gels, vaginal tablets, or vaginal inserts. Your healthcare provider may ask you to stop sexual activity for a time. Your provider may also ask that your partner be treated to prevent reinfection or spread of the infection.
Vaginitis caused by irritants can usually be treated by stopping exposure to the irritant. Some irritations are treated with steroid or hormone creams.
For women in menopause, vaginal dryness (atrophic vaginitis) can be treated with hormone pills or cream.
Do not treat vaginitis with nonprescription medicine without the approval of your healthcare provider. It could be the wrong treatment.
The symptoms usually start to get better after a day or two of treatment. Infections clear up in about a week. It is very important that you take all of your prescribed medicine, even if your symptoms are gone. This will help to prevent recurrence. If you stop taking your medicine after the symptoms are relieved but before the scheduled end of treatment, the infection or irritation may come back.
To help relieve the symptoms you can:
Call your healthcare provider if you notice a change in color, odor, consistency, or quantity of vaginal discharge.
Practice good personal hygiene: