Vaginitis is swelling, burning, itching, or an infection of the vagina. When the vulva are also affected, it is called vulvovaginitis. The vulva is the outer part of your genitals. It includes the skin around the opening of the vagina (birth canal) and urethra (where urine leaves your body). Vaginitis is a very common problem that females of any age can have.
Vaginitis can be caused by infection with bacteria, viruses, or yeast. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs) are a common cause of infection. An overgrowth of bacteria normally found in the vagina can also cause vaginitis (a condition called bacterial vaginosis or nonspecific vaginitis).
Vaginitis can also be caused by irritants, such as:
Stress, poor hygiene, or a decrease in the female hormone estrogen (atrophic vaginitis) are other possible causes.
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 belly 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 ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests may include tests of vaginal discharge, urine, and blood.
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 avoiding the irritants. Sometimes it may also be treated with steroid or hormone creams.
For women in menopause, atrophic vaginitis can be treated with hormone pills or cream.
Don’t treat vaginitis with nonprescription medicine without the approval of your healthcare provider. It could be the wrong treatment.
Follow your healthcare provider's instructions and take all of your medicine as prescribed. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, the infection or irritation may come back.
To help relieve the symptoms you can:
Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Practice good personal hygiene:
If you tend to get a yeast infection when you are taking antibiotics, tell your healthcare provider if an antibiotic is prescribed for you.
Take these precautions when you have sex: