Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
How do you get Vaginitis/How can you get Vaginitis? Vaginitis Causes:
Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain.
It can be caused by bacteria, yeasts, viruses, and other parasites. Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause vaginitis, as can various chemicals found in bubble baths, soaps, and perfumes. Environmental factors such as poor hygiene and allergens may cause this condition as well and lastly, it can also result from reduced estrogen levels after menopause.
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 – men can contract this
- Trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite and is commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse – men can contract this
- Vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis), which results from reduced estrogen levels after menopause
Most of the time these infections are caused by an upset in the balance of bacteria that is normal in the vagina. Trichomoniasis on the other hand is primarily sexually transmitted and it will be important for sex partners to be treated so it is not passed back and forth.
The healthy vagina has a balance of many different kinds of bacteria. ‘Good’ bacteria help keep the vagina a little-bit acidic. This keeps ‘bad’ bacteria from growing too fast. A healthy vagina makes a mucus-like discharge that may look clear or a little milky, depending on the time of a woman’s monthly cycle. When the balance between the ‘good’ bacteria and the ‘bad’ bacteria is upset, ‘bad’ bacteria grow too fast and cause infections.
How to tell if you have Vaginitis? Vaginitis Symptoms:
Vaginitis symptoms may include:
- Change in color, odor or amount of discharge from the vagina
- Irritation and itching of the genital area
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful urination
- Light vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Inflammation (irritation, redness, and swelling) of the labia majora, labia minora, or perineal area
Symptoms specific to bacterial vaginosis (BV) are often so mild that women don’t know they have it. If a woman does have symptoms, they may include:
- A strong fishy smell, especially after sex
- White or grey discharge
- Watery or foamy discharge
- Thick, white ‘cottage cheese’ discharge
- Pain, itching, burning, or redness around the vagina
- A smell like baking bread
- Discharge that is green, yellow or grey
- A bad smell
- Itching in or around the genitals
- Pain during sex
- Pain when urinating
How to know if you have Vaginitis? Vaginitis Tests:
To diagnose your condition, your doctor may review your history of vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections and conduct a pelvic examination or an examination of the infected area.
A wet prep (microscopic evaluation of discharge) is usually done to identify a vaginal infection or overgrowth of yeast or bacteria. In some cases, a culture of the discharge may identify the organism causing the infection.
A biopsy of the irritated area may be recommended if there are no signs of infection.
Relief spells (Rolaids?!) Vaginitis Treatment:
Treatment depends on what is causing the infection. Treatment may include:
- Antibiotics taken by mouth or applied to the skin
- Antifungal cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Cortisone cream
- Antihistamine, if the irritation is due to an allergic reaction
- Estrogen cream, if the irritation and inflammation is due to low levels of estrogen
It is often helpful to allow more air to reach the genital area. You can do this by:
- Wearing cotton underwear (rather than nylon) or underwear that has a cotton lining in the crotch area. This increases air flow and decreases moisture.
- Removing underwear at bedtime.
What’s going to happen to me?!!?! Vaginitis Expectations:
If a sexually transmitted infection is diagnosed, it is very important that any other sexual partners receive treatment, even if they do not have symptoms. If your sexual partner is infected but not treated, you risk becoming infected over and over again.
Things to be aware of… Vaginitis Complications:
Vaginitis is rarely dangerous. Less frequently, vaginitis can cause:
- Discomfort that does not go away
- Skin infection (from scratching)
- Complications due to the cause of the condition (such as gonorrhea and candida infection)
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Did this information help you or was this consistent with your experience? Are we missing something pertinent you think should be included in this in-depth description? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!