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Vaginitis - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

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Vaginitis - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

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Vaginitis is a common non-life-threatening condition causing inflammation of the vagina. This article explains this condition in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nikitha Murthy

Published At June 24, 2021
Reviewed AtMarch 2, 2023


Vaginitis is a clinical condition characterized by infection or inflammation involving the vagina, whereas vulvovaginitis means inflammation of both the vulva and vagina. Vulva belongs to the genito-urinary tract and denotes the external part of the genitals.

What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal Infection?

Some of the causes of vaginitis do not show any signs or symptoms. But, in those cases with infections, the following can be experienced by the patient:

  • Vaginal itchiness.

  • Change in the quantity of vaginal discharge.

  • Change in the vaginal discharge color.

  • Problems during urination like burning and irritation.

  • Pain during sex.

  • Bleeding or spotting from the vagina.

Various other symptoms are dependent on the type of infection, which are as follows:

1) Bacterial Infections:

It causes discharge which is grayish-white or yellow. This discharge can produce an odor that is fish-like and can be noticed after sex.

2) Yeast Infections:

The most common symptom is itching. It might also produce discharge which can be thick and white and resemble cottage cheese.

3) Trichomoniasis:

It is a clinical condition that is characterized by itching of the vagina and a bad odor. The discharge can be greenish-yellow in color and also frothy.

Vaginal infections are mostly treatable and do not indicate any life-threatening condition. But, in the following situations, consult your physician:

  • No history of vaginal infection before but noticing some of the above-mentioned symptoms.

  • Different or new sex partners.

  • Have fever.

  • Symptoms of pregnancy.

  • Recurring symptoms even after treatment.

What Are the Causes of Vaginal Infections?

There can be various causes associated with vaginal infections. The treatment is also based on the type of infection involved. Following are the various causes of vaginal infection:

1) Bacterial Infections:

The vagina consists of various normal commensal bacterias. They can turn into pathologic if the immune response of the body decreases or if these bacteria increase in number. Such a pathologic condition is called bacterial vaginosis.

2) Yeast Infections:

The main causative organism for fungal infections is Candida albicans. Various conditions may lead to a decrease in the antifungal bacterias in the vagina, and this may lead to an increase in several fungi in the vagina, which can lead to infection.

3) Trichomoniasis:

This type of vaginal infection is caused due to a protozoan parasite which is mainly contracted via sexual intercourse.

4) Vaginal Atrophy:

This is most commonly seen in women after menopause but can be witnessed during other scenarios like a decrease in estrogen levels, breastfeeding, etc. A reduction in hormone levels can lead to thickening in the vagina along with dryness which can cause inflammation in the vagina.

5) Irritants:

Various agents like soaps, perfumes, body washes, and vaginal contraceptives can lead to vaginal irritation, which can lead to inflammation. Some other causes include tight-fitting clothes, which can lead to the development of heat rashes and can irritate the vagina.

6) Infections Caused Due to Chlamydia:

It is the most commonly occurring sexually transmitted infection (STI) in women and usually affects those between 18 to 35 years and having multiple sexual partners.

7) Gonorrhea:

It is another STI that more commonly spreads through sex. It is often accompanied by Chlamydia in patients.

8) Viral Vaginitis:

It is vaginal inflammation or infection caused due to various viruses like Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) or Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and spread through sex. Warts or sores present in these conditions can be very painful.

There are certain conditions where the physician may not determine the actual cause of the infection. It is known as nonspecific vulvovaginitis. This can develop in any woman irrespective of age, but more commonly, involvement is observed in young girls who have not attained puberty.

How Can Vaginal Infections Be Diagnosed?

When you visit your doctor, you will be asked about your personal history, medical history, and the signs and symptoms you are facing. Questions related to your sex health will also be asked like several partners, history of previous infections, etc.

Following this, a pelvic examination may be performed. The vaginal discharge may be collected by the doctor for further laboratory testing. This will help in the assessment of the cause and the type of treatment required, especially the choice of antibiotics.

How Can Vaginal Infections Be Treated?

As mentioned earlier, the treatment depends on the cause of the infection. Following medications can be prescribed:

  • Metronidazole - It can be given as tablets, cream, or gel for bacterial infection

  • Clindamycin - As cream or gel for bacterial infection

  • Antifungal Creams or Suppositories - This can be given in cases of yeast infection.

  • Metronidazole or Tinidazole Tablets - It is prescribed in cases diagnosed with trichomoniasis.

  • Estrogen Creams or Tablets - In women diagnosed with vaginal atrophy.

If the cause of vaginal irritation or inflammation is an external irritant like soap, creams, etc., you can stop using the product or use an alternative to minimize the irritation.

What Are the Ways to Prevent Vaginal Infection?

Prevention of all vaginal infections is not practically possible. One way of preventing vaginal infections due to sexually transmitted diseases (STD) is the use of condoms. Secondly, maintaining proper personal hygiene is very important. Wash your private area with lukewarm water and mild unscented soaps.

Usage of cotton underwear or pantyhose with a cotton crotch can help in preventing vaginal infections. Also, I prefer wearing loose clothes and keeping the area breathable. Avoid douching as it may lead to a disturbance in the ecosystem of the vagina and may also spread these infections deeper into the reproductive tract of females.


Vaginal infections can be caused due to various causes, and the treatment depends on the type of infection. It is important to consult a physician when you have discomfort in the vagina, or you face any of the symptoms mentioned in this article. Consulting a physician or a specialist has become practical and easy with the birth of online medical platforms. To know more about vaginal infections, causes, symptoms, management, and prevention, consult a specialist online.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Is Vaginitis Caused?

Vaginitis is the inflammation of the vagina, resulting in pain, discharge, and itching. The most common causes of vaginitis include the following.
 - Change in the vaginal bacterial environment.
 - Infection.
 - Decreased estrogen levels.
 - Skin disorders.


Is Vaginitis a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Vaginitis is not a sexually transmitted disease. Rather, certain sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes, gonorrhea, and HPV can cause vaginal infection and pain.


Does Vaginitis Clear Spontaneously?

Not every case of vaginitis goes spontaneously on its own. Nevertheless, certain mild forms of yeast infection can go. Bacterial vaginosis can be cleared independently, but it can lead to severe illness in specific cases. So, it is vital to identify the cause regardless of delaying it to subsiding.


How Can One Get Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection resulting from the overgrowth of bacteria. An imbalance between good and harmful bacteria in the vagina culminates in bacterial vaginosis. The following causes are attributable to the development of bacterial vaginosis.
 - Douching.
 - Unhygienic sex practices.
 - Not using condoms.


How Long Will Vaginitis Last?

Antibiotics, considering the antifungal and bacterial medications, can take about seven days to two weeks to eliminate an infection. In addition, antiviral drugs can help alleviate the symptoms but do not clear the virus


How Is Vaginitis Characterized?

The vaginal inflammation is called vaginitis. Vaginitis includes the following characteristics.
 - Pain and itching.
 - Yeast infection.
 - Grayish-white discharge corresponds to cottage cheese.
 - Foul-smelling vagina, generally with a fish odor. 


What Results From Untreated Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal inflammation that does not generally cause health concerns. Nevertheless, untreated bacterial vaginosis increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, gonorrhea, HIV, and chlamydia.


Will Bacterial Vaginosis Smell?

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal inflammation that does not cause vaginal irritation or itchiness. However, a fishy or soul smell is the predominant sign of bacterial vaginosis.


Is There a Cure for Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis might resolve on its own in the milder forms. However, one should seek professional help when identifying the symptoms of vaginal inflammation. Then, the doctors will prescribe appropriate antibiotics.


How Is the Normal Smell of Virginia?

The vagina holds its unique smell, which is acquired by the combination of gland secretion, vaginal bacteria, diet, fabrics, and hygiene practices. In addition, it is common for the vagina to produce a sour or tangy smell, as in fermented foods.


Is Bacterial Vaginosis Common?

Bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal illness characterized by a foul-smelling vagina. It is the most common vaginal inflammation in women between 15 and 44 years old. Specific reports reveal that one in three American women has bacterial vaginosis.


Is Vaginal Discharge Acidic in Nature?

Lactobacilli bacteria in the vagina make the vaginal discharge acidic since they secrete hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid. The pH of a healthy vagina falls between 3.5 and 4.5.


Which Vitamins Are Meant to Be Taken Daily by Women?

The following vitamin supplements can be taken daily for the wellness of women.
 - Vitamin D is needed for cell and bone growth.
 - Magnesium for its numerous benefits.
 - Calcium helps maintain bone strength and density.
 - Iron.
 - Vitamin B. 


Which Vitamins Are Not to Be Taken Together?

One should have concerns while taking specific vitamins together. 
The following combination of vitamins is generally not taken together.
 - Iron and green tea.
 - Vitamin C and vitamin B12.
 - Magnesium and calcium.
 - Specific fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.
 - Magnesium and vitamin D3.
 - Copper and zinc.
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Dr. Nikitha Murthy
Dr. Nikitha Murthy

Obstetrics and Gynecology


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