is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain. The cause is usually a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria or an infection. Vaginitis can also result from reduced estrogen levels after Menopause.
The most common types of Vaginitis are:
which results from overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina
which are usually caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans
which is caused by a parasite and is commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse
(atrophic Vaginitis), which results from reduced estrogen levels after Menopause
Treatment depends on the type of Vaginitis you have.
Vaginitis signs and symptoms may include:
The characteristics of vaginal discharge may indicate the type of Vaginitis you have. Examples include:
You may develop a grayish-white, foul-smelling discharge. The odor, often described as fish-like, may be more obvious after sexual intercourse.
The main symptom is itching, but you may have a white, thick discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
An infection called Trichomoniasis (trik-o-moe-NIE-uh-sis) can cause a greenish yellow, sometimes frothy discharge.
The cause depends on the type of Vaginitis you have.
Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina. Usually, “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber “bad” bacteria (anaerobes) in your vagina. But if anaerobic bacteria become too numerous, they upset the balance, causing Bacterial vaginosis. This type of Vaginitis seems to be linked to sexual intercourse — especially if you have multiple sex partners or a new sex partner — but it also occurs in women who aren’t sexually active.
A yeast infection occurs when there’s an overgrowth of a fungal organism — usually C. albicans — in your vagina. Besides causing most vaginal yeast infections, C. albicans also causes infections in other moist areas of your body, such as in your mouth (thrush), skin folds and nail beds. The fungus can also cause Diaper rash.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. In men, the organism usually infects the urinary tract, but often it causes no symptoms. In women, Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina, and usually it causes symptoms.
Vaginal sprays, douches, perfumed soaps, scented detergents and spermicidal products may cause an allergic reaction or irritate vulvar and vaginal tissues. Thinning of the vaginal lining — a result of decreased hormone levels following Menopause or surgical removal of your ovaries — can also cause vaginal itching and burning.
Factors that increase your risk of developing Vaginitis include:
Generally, vaginal infections don’t cause serious complications. In pregnant women, however, symptomatic Bacterial vaginosis and Trichomoniasis have been associated with premature deliveries and low birth weight babies. Women with Trichomoniasis or Bacterial vaginosis are also at a greater risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
TREATMENTS AND DRUGS
A variety of organisms and conditions can cause Vaginitis, so treatment targets the specific cause:
For this type of Vaginitis, your doctor may prescribe metronidazole tablets (Flagyl) that you take by mouth, metronidazole gel (MetroGel) that you apply to your vagina or clindamycin cream (Cleocin) that you apply to your vagina. Medications are usually used once or twice a day for five to seven days.
Yeast infections usually are treated with an antifungal cream or suppository, such as miconazole (Monistat), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin) or tioconazole (Vagistat). Yeast infections may also be treated with a prescription oral antifungal medication, such as Fluconazole (Diflucan). The advantages of over-the-counter treatment are convenience, cost and not waiting to see your doctor. The catch is you may be treating something other than a yeast infection. It’s possible to mistake a yeast infection for other types of Vaginitis or conditions that need different treatment. Using the wrong medicine may delay an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Your doctor may prescribe metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax) tablets.
Thinning of vaginal lining (Vaginal atrophy).
Estrogen — in the form of vaginal creams, tablets or rings — can effectively treat atrophic Vaginitis. This treatment is available by prescription from your doctor.
To treat this type of Vaginitis, you need to pinpoint the source of the irritation and avoid it. Possible sources include new soap, laundry detergent, sanitary napkins or tampons. Your doctor may prescribe topical estrogen, such as a cream, to relieve your symptoms.
LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES
Good hygiene may prevent some types of Vaginitis from recurring and may relieve some symptoms:
Avoid baths, hot tubs and whirlpool spas.
Rinse soap from your outer genital area after a shower, and dry the area well to prevent irritation. Don’t use scented or harsh soaps, such as those with deodorant or antibacterial action.
These include scented tampons and pads.
Wipe from front to back after using the toilet.
Doing so avoids spreading fecal bacteria to your vagina.
Other things that may help prevent Vaginitis include:
Your vagina doesn’t require cleansing other than normal bathing. Repetitive douching disrupts the normal organisms that reside in the vagina and can actually increase your risk of vaginal infection. Douching won’t clear up a vaginal infection.
Use a latex condom.
Both male and female latex condoms may help you avoid infections spread by sexual contact.
Wear cotton underwear.
Also wear pantyhose with a cotton crotch. If you feel comfortable without it, skip wearing underwear to bed. Yeast thrives in moist environments.