Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain. The cause is usually a change in the normal balance of the vaginal bacteria or an infection.
The most common types of Vaginitis are:
- Bacterial Vaginosis, which results from overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina.
- Yeast infections, which are usually caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans.
- Trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite and is commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse.
Treatment depends on what type of Vaginitis you have.
You may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Change in color, odor or the amount of discharge in the vagina
- Vaginal itching or irritation
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain with urination
- Light vaginal bleeding or spotting
The characteristics of your vaginal discharge or symptoms may indicate the type of vaginitis you have. For example:
Bacterial Vaginosis may cause you to develop a grayish-white, foul-smelling discharge. The odor usually described as “fishy” or “fish like,” may be more obvious after sexual intercourse.
Yeast Infections usually cause vaginal itching. You may also experience some thick whitish discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
Trichomoniasis can cause your discharge to be a greenish-yellowish color and sometimes may be frothy. (mayoclinic.com)
The cause also depends on what type of vaginitis you have.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) results from an overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina. Usually, “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber “bad” bacteria (anaerobes) in your vagina. But if anaerobic bacteria become too numerous, they upset the balance, causing bacterial vaginosis.
Not much is known about how Women get BV. There are many unanswered questions about the role that harmful bacteria play in causing BV. Any woman can get BV. However, some activities or behaviors can upset the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina and put women at increased risk including:
- Having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners
It is not clear what role Sexual activity plays in the development of BV. Women do not get BV from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools, or from touching objects around them. Women who have never had sexual intercourse may also be affected. (cdc.gov)
Yeast Infections occur when the normal environment of your vagina undergoes some change that triggers an overgrowth of a fungal organism called Candida Albicans. Yeast infections are not considered a sexually transmitted infection. Besides causing most vaginal yeast infections, Candida Albicans also causes infections in other moist areas of your body, such as in your mouth (thrush), skin folds and nail beds. The fungus can also cause diaper rash.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3 out of 4 women will have a yeast infection at some time during their lives. Factors that increase your risk of yeast infections include:
- Medications, such as antibiotics and steroids
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy, birth control pills or menopause
Bubble baths, vaginal contraceptives, damp or tight fitting clothing, and feminine hygiene products, such as sprays and deodorants, do not cause yeast infections. However, these factors may increase your susceptibility to infection.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. The organism usually infects the urinary tract in men, in whom it often causes no symptoms. Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina in women.
Vaginal sprays, douches, perfumed soaps, scented detergents and spermicidal products may cause an allergic reaction or irritate vulva and vaginal tissues. Thinning of the vaginal lining, a result of hormone loss following menopause or surgical removal of your ovaries, can also cause vaginal itching and burning.
To diagnose your condition, your healthcare provider may review your history of vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections and perform a pelvic examination. During the exam, your doctor may take a sample of cervical or vaginal discharge for laboratory analysis. This sample can confirm what kind of vaginitis you have.
Good hygiene may prevent some types of vaginitis from recurring and may relieve some symptoms:
- Avoid baths, hot tubs, and whirlpool spas. Rinse soap from your outer genital area after a shower, and dry the area well to prevent irritation. Don’t use scented or harsh soaps, such as those with deodorant or antibacterial action.
- Avoid irritants. These include scented tampons and pads.
- Wipe from front to back after using the toilet. Doing so avoids spreading fecal bacteria to your vagina.
Other things that may help prevent vaginitis include:
- Don’t douche. Your vagina doesn’t require cleansing other than normal bathing. Repetitive douching disrupts the normal organisms that reside in the vagina and can actually increase your risk of vaginal infection. Douching won’t clear up a vaginal infection.
- Use a latex condom. This helps avoid infections spread by sexual contact.
- Wear cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch. If you feel comfortable without it, skip wearing underwear to bed. Yeast thrives in moist environments. (mayoclinic.com)
If you experience or are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please contact Women’s Health at 404.894.1434 to schedule an appointment.
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