Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain and is usually caused by a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria or an infection.
Vaginal infections happen to women of all ages, whether they are sexually active or not. You will likely experience at least one vaginal infection at some point in your life.
The three most common types of vaginal infections include:
Bacterial vaginosis—when a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria occurs. It is the most common type of infection and often treated with antibiotics.
Candida or yeast infection—a fungus normally present in the vagina in small numbers. If something kills bacteria that usually keeps the yeast in check, it can overgrow causing infection. Antifungal medications are a common treatment.
Trichomoniasis—is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a one-celled parasite. It's especially important for women to get prompt treatment. Usually an oral antibiotic must be taken by both partners must be treated to avoid reinfection.
Bacteria, yeast, viruses, chemicals in creams or sprays, and even clothing can cause vaginitis. Sometimes, it occurs from organisms that are passed between sexual partners. Also, a number of different factors can affect the health of your vagina. These include your overall health, your personal hygiene, medicines, hormones (particularly estrogen), and the health of your sexual partner. Changes in any of these factors can trigger vaginitis.
A woman's vagina normally produces a discharge that is clear or slightly cloudy, non-irritating and odor-free. A bacterial balance in the vagina can be upset by many factors, including:
Antibiotics side effects
Diet—spices, onions, garlic, red meat, dairy, asparagus, broccoli and alcohol can all affect the natural balance of the vagina
Douching—washing or rinsing out the vagina using water or some other fluid
Use of various vaginal products—including vaginal sprays, lubricants or birth control devices
Wearing tight pants or damp underwear—may cause irritation and chafing in and around the vagina
infection risk factors
You may be at risk for a vaginal infection if you:
Are experiencing fluctuating hormone levels due to pregnancy or use of oral birth control
Have had a recent course of antibiotics
Have a history of steroid use
Have multiple sexual partners
Have diabetes or an autoimmune disease
Vaginal infection symptoms
The symptoms of vaginitis can vary depending on the cause of the infection. Some women have no symptoms at all.
Common symptoms of vaginitis include:
Change in color, odor or amount of discharge from your vagina
Pain or irritation during sexual intercourse
Pain or irritation when urinating
Vaginal inflammation, itching and burning
probably don't need to see your doctor every time you have vaginal irritation
and discharge. However, call for an appointment if you:
Develop unusual vaginal discomfort
Have a fever, chills or pelvic pain
Have an unusual vaginal odor, discharge or itching
Have completed a course of over-the-counter anti-yeast medicine and your symptoms persist
Have had multiple sex partners or a recent new partner
Have had vaginal infections in the past
you think you have a vaginal infection, discuss your concerns with your gynecologist or
make an appointment with one of our women’s health experts.
Do you have questions about your vagina but are not ready to make an appointment with a doctor? Contact our ezCare Concierge nurse navigator, a free, confidential service designed to help you navigate the best next steps for you and your health.