Vaginitis: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina mostly caused by an infection or a change in the normal balance of the vaginal bacteria. Symptoms may include pain, itching, and discharge. Factors that may also lead to vaginitis is skin disorders and low estrogen levels after menopause.

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The most common types of vaginitis are:

  • Bacterial vaginosis: This causes change of the normal vaginal bacteria to overgrowth of other harmful organisms
  • Yeast infections: This is caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans
  • Trichomoniasis: This is caused by a parasite commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse

Treatment depends on the type of vaginitis you have.

Symptoms of Vaginitis

Symptoms of vaginitis includes:

  • Vaginal itching and soreness
  • Painful urination
  • Change in color, odor or amount of vaginal discharge
  • Light vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Pain during intercourse

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Some women may have vaginal discharge which may point to the type of vaginitis. Examples include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis: Discharge may appear grayish-white and foul-smelling with a fishy odor which might be more obvious after intercourse.
  • Yeast infection: This includes severe itching with white, thick discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
  • Trichomoniasis: This can cause a greenish-yellow, sometimes frothy discharge.

Causes of Vaginitis

The cause of vaginitis depends on the type:

  • Bacterial vaginosis: This most common cause of vaginitis is from a change of the normal bacteria (lactobacilli) found in your vagina, to overgrowth of one of several other organisms (anaerobes).

This type of vaginitis is mostly linked to sexual intercourse, especially if you have multiple sex partners or a new sex partner. Note that it can also occur in women who aren’t sexually active.

  • Yeast infectionsThese are caused by an overgrowth of a fungal organism — usually C. albicans — in your vagina, which causes infections in other moist areas of your body, such as in your mouth (thrush), skin folds and nail beds.
  • TrichomoniasisThis sexually transmitted infection is caused by Trichomonas vaginalis during sexual intercourse with someone who has the infection.

The organism may cause no symptom in men and usually infects the urinary tract. In women, it infects the vagina, and might cause symptoms.

  • Noninfectious vaginitis:This may be caused by the use of scented detergents, vaginal sprays, perfumed soaps, douches, foreign objects (tissue paper, tampons), perfumed soaps, and spermicidal products. These products may cause an allergic reaction or irritate vulvar and vaginal tissues.
  • Genitourinary syndrome of menopause, GSM (vaginal atrophy):This is caused by low levels of estrogen after menopause or surgical removal of your ovaries.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you develop:

  • Unpleasant vaginal odor, discharge or itching.
  • Vaginal infections before.
  • Recurrent vaginal infections
  • If your symptoms persist after completing a course of over-the-counter anti-yeast medication.
  • You have pelvic pain, a fever, or chills.

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Risk factors of Vaginitis

Factors that increase your risk of developing vaginitis include:

  • Unprotected sexual activities
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain medications like steroids and antibiotics
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Douching
  • Having a sexually transmitted infection
  • Use of spermicides for birth control
  • Using IUD for birth control
  • Use of hygiene products such as bubble bath, vaginal spray or vaginal deodorant
  • Wearing damp or tight-fitting clothing

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To prevent or reduce your chances of getting vaginitis:

  • Avoid douching
  • Avoid using irritants in your privates
  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet
  • Use latex condom
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Avoid hot tubs


To diagnose the condition, your doctor may:

  • Review your medical history
  • Perform a pelvic exam by using a speculum to examine your vagina for inflammation and abnormal discharge.
  • Collect a sample for lab testingto confirm the kind of vaginitis you have.
  • Perform pH testing by applying apH test stick or pH paper to the wall of your vagina. An high pH can indicate either bacteria vaginosis or trichomoniasis.


A variety of organisms and conditions can cause vaginitis, so treatment targets the specific cause:

  • Bacterial vaginosis

Metronidazole (Flagyl) tablets may be prescribed by your doctor to be taken orally. Also metronidazole (MetroGel) gel or clindamycin (Cleocin) cream may be prescribed which you can apply to your vagina.

  • Yeast infections

Yeast infections usually are treated with an over-the-counter antifungal cream or suppository, like clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin), miconazole (Monistat 1), butoconazole (Femstat 3) or tioconazole (Vagistat-1).

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Also, yeast infections may be treated with a prescription oral antifungal medication, such as fluconazole (Diflucan).

  • Trichomoniasis

Your doctor may prescribe metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax) tablets.

  • Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (vaginal atrophy)

Your doctor may administer estrogen in the form of vaginal creams, tablets or rings to treat this condition. This treatment is available by prescription from your doctor.

  • Noninfectious vaginitis

You may personally need to identify the source of irritation and avoid it to treat this type of vaginitis. Possible sources include sanitary napkins, new soap, laundry, tampons, or detergent.

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Disclaimer: The content provided on is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.




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