VaginitisVaginitis is a general term that refers to infection or inflammation of the vagina and vulva. These conditions are common, affecting an estimated one-third of women over the course of a lifetime.

Causes of Vaginitis

Vaginitis occurs when the yeast and bacteria normally found in the vagina grow out of control, leading to inflammation or infection. The condition is seen most often in women of childbearing age. Common causes of vaginitis include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Douching
  • Chemicals, sprays or spermicides
  • Hormonal changes
  • Tight or irritating clothing
  • Infection
  • Organisms that are spread through sexual intercourse

Common Agents or Conditions Associated with Vaginitis

Most vaginal infections can be traced to:

  • Candida or yeast infections
  • Bacteria
  • Sexually transmitted organisms including Trichomoniasis or chlamydia
  • Viruses
  • Low hormone levels
  • Other irritants

Symptoms of Vaginitis

Vaginitis symptoms vary, depending on the cause. Sometimes, a woman can have vaginitis and experience no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, the most common symptoms include:

  • Foul odor
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Dryness
  • Painful intercourse

Diagnosing Vaginitis

An experienced gynecologist can often identify the source of vaginitis by inspecting the vaginal discharge. During the exam, a vaginal swab may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Vaginitis

Treatment depends on the source of the infection or irritation. If a yeast infection is present, over-the-counter medication is available in the form of a vaginal suppository or cream. Your OBGYN may also prescribe an oral medication. Bacterial infections require prescription pills, vaginal cream or gel. If the infection is sexually transmitted, your partner may also require treatment.

If vaginitis is attributed to low hormone levels, your gynecologist may prescribe estrogen cream, rings or tablets.

Preventing Vaginitis

It may not always be possible to avoid vaginitis, but there are a few steps you can take to lower your risk:

  • Avoid tight pants
  • Avoid synthetic undergarments and wear panties with a cotton crotch
  • Add yogurt to your diet
  • Avoid douching and the use scented soaps or sprays
  • Use condoms

If you are experiencing frequent vaginitis, talk with your OBGYN about the appropriate steps you can take to reduce your risk.