Vaginitis: Types, symptoms, causes, and treatment

Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina. It normally results from an infection. The patient typically has a discharge, itching, burning, and possibly pain.

It is a common condition, and most women will have it at least once at some time in their life.

The vagina is the muscular canal that runs from the cervix to the outside of the body, lined by a mucus membrane. It has an average length of about 6 to 7 inches.

The only part of the vagina that is normally visible from the outside is the vaginal opening.


[woman with vaginitis]
Vaginitis can lead to severe irritation and discomfort.

The most common symptoms of vaginitis include:

irritation of the genital area

discharge that may be white, gray, watery, or foamy

inflammation, leading to redness and swelling of the labia majora, labia minora, and perineal area, mainly due to an excess of immune cells

dysuria, which is pain or discomfort when urinating

painful sexual intercourse, known as dyspareunia

foul or fishy vaginal odor


Infection is the most common cause of vaginitis, including candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis. After puberty, infectious vaginitis accounts for 90 percent of cases.

Less commonly, vaginitis may also be caused by gonorrhea, Chlamydia, mycoplasma, herpes, campylobacter, some parasites, and poor hygiene.

Vaginitis can occur before puberty, but different types of bacteria may be involved. Before puberty,
Streptococcus spp is a more likely cause, sometimes because improper hygiene practices spread bacteria from the anal area to the genitals.

The proximity of the vagina to the anus, lack of estrogen, lack of pubic hair, and lack of labial fat pads may increase the risk of vulvovaginitis in before puberty. Vulvovaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina and vulva. It can affect women of all ages.

After puberty, infection is most often due to Gardnerella.

Sometimes, vaginitis can stem from an allergic reaction, for example, to condoms, spermicides, certain soaps and perfumes, douches, topical medications, lubricants, and even semen.

Irritation from a tampon can also cause vaginitis in some women.

Factors that increase the risk of vaginitis include:


douching and using vaginal products, such as sprays, spermicides, and birth control devices

using antibiotics

wearing tight pants or damp underwear

low estrogen levels during menopause

Women with diabetes are particularly prone to vaginitis.

multiple sexual partners increases vaginitis risk
Having multiple sexual partners may increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis.

Sexual intercourse is the most common means of transmission for vaginitis, but it is not the only means.

Some experts believe that having multiple sexual partners can increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis, which is a particular type of vaginitis. Having a female sexual partner could also increase the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis by 60 percent.

Healthcare professionals sometimes call yeast infections and bacterial infections sexually associated infections.

People who are sexually active tend to contract them more frequently. However, infections are not necessarily passed from one partner to another during sexual intercourse.

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