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Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina or vulva (external genitalia), seen commonly in women in their reproductive years. The most common cause of vaginitis is due to an imbalance of bacteria or yeast found normally in the vagina.

Vaginitis can have different causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Causes of Vaginitis

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common type of vaginitis seen in women between 15 to 44 years. It is caused by an imbalance between normal and harmful bacteria found in the vagina. The causes of the imbalance include:

  • Douching
  • Taking antibiotics
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Having unprotected sex with a new partner
  • Having multiple sexual partners

Yeast Infections occur when there is an overgrowth of a fungus known as candida in the vagina and can be due to the following reasons:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • Pregnancy
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Corticosteroid medicines

Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease, can also cause vaginitis.

Other causes include allergy or sensitivity to certain products such as soaps, detergents, spermicides or vaginal sprays. Hormonal changes can also cause vaginitis.

Symptoms of Vaginitis

Symptoms depend on which type of vaginitis you have.

  • Bacterial vaginosis may not have any symptoms. If symptoms occur, they can include a strong fishy odor, especially after sexual intercourse.
  • Yeast infections mainly cause itching, but you may experience a cottage cheese-like discharge.
  • With trichomoniasis, you may not experience any symptoms at all. Symptoms may include burning during urination, itchiness, a gray-green discharge and soreness of the vagina and vulva.


Vaginitis is diagnosed by a detailed review of your medical history and thorough examination of the pelvic area.  A sample of your vaginal fluid may also be studied under a microscope. Your doctor may also assess vaginal discharge for any abnormal odor or color.


Treatment depends on the type of vaginitis you have:

  • Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics in the form of a fluid or pills to swallow, or a gel to apply to your vagina. Avoid intercourse during this period or use protection.
  • Yeast infections are treated with a cream applied to the inside of your vagina or oral medication.
  • Trichomoniasis is treated with a single-dose antibiotic. To prevent spreading the infection to others, and also to avoid getting it again, both you and your partner need to be treated.

If the cause of your symptoms is due to hormonal changes, your doctor may prescribe estrogen cream.

Allen OB/GYN

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