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What is Vaginitis?

The female reproductive system, including the vagina.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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Vaginitis, properly called vulvovaginitis since it often involves the vulva as well, is an infection or irritation of the vagina and vulva of a woman. There are numerous causes for vaginitis, which affects women of all ages and levels of sexual activity. Many women will have a vaginitis infection at least once in their lives, and it should not be a cause of embarrassment. Because untreated vaginitis can lead to fertility issues and other health problems, women should always see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Many women associate yeast infections with vaginitis and use the terms interchangeably. A yeast infection, also called candidiasis, is only one type of vaginitis. The condition can also be caused by bacteria, parasites, allergies, and irritants. This is why it is important to not self-medicate for vaginitis, because treatment with the wrong medication will not eliminate the condition. The symptoms of the problem include itching, burning, unusual discharge, painful urination, or bleeding.

One of the most common forms of vaginitis is bacterial vaginitis or BV, caused by a bacterial infection or an imbalance in the bacterial flora of the vagina. It can be treated with antibiotics and some natural techniques, such as introducing beneficial bacteria into the vaginal environment. Candidiasis, or a yeast infection, is treated with anti-fungal medications. Trichomoniasis or "trich" is a form of vaginitis caused by parasites, and usually viewed as a sexually transmitted infection, since it is passed from person to person. Antibiotics are used to treat trich.

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The condition can also be caused by a foreign object in the vagina. Symptoms are usually relieved when it is removed, although a soothing cream may be prescribed to promote healing. Women also develop vaginitis as an allergic response, typically because of the use of scented products.

Prevention of vaginitis is relatively straightforward. Women can reduce the likelihood of infection by eating healthy diets, practicing good genital hygiene, and avoiding harsh soaps and scented products. It is also important to refrain from douching, as a douche can disturb the bacterial balance of the vagina. Wiping front to back, wearing loose clothing and natural fibers, and using barrier protection during sexual activity will also reduce the risk of vaginitis. Ultimately, despite a woman's best efforts, she may become infected anyway. Prompt treatment is essential to prevent long term problems and to catch the condition early, making it much easier to get rid of.

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Discuss this Article

ZipLine
Post 3

Can a female puppy get vaginitis?

My puppy has been peeing a lot these past few days and she is always licking that area. I asked the vet over the phone and he said it sounds like vaginitis symptoms. Is this possible?

discographer
Post 2

@ankara-- Just go to the doctor! There is nothing to be embarrassed about, everyone experiences this at some point. You will not be your doctor's first patient who has vaginitis.

You really can't treat this on your own, you don't even know what it is. The doctor can do some tests to find out what kind of an infection it is so that he or she can prescribe the right medication.

I got a vaginal infection last year when I had to share a bathroom with three roommates. So I must have picked up the infection from one of the other girls. It was shocking because I was really careful about hygiene. The foul odor was also one of the first symptoms I had. I didn't have itching or pain, just the discharge and the odor. I took a course of antibiotics and the symptoms went away after that.

The treatment is really easier than you think. You just need to be courageous and speak to your doctor about it.

bluedolphin
Post 1

I think I have vaginitis but I've been avoiding going to the doctor because I'm so embarrassed. I have some pain, especially when I urinate, but he main symptoms that are really bothering me is the vaginal discharge and the odor.

The odor is really bad, it almost smells like fish. I'm sorry for that description, I'm embarrassed just writing about this but I need help. What can I do? Can I treat this with over-the-counter ointments or something like that so that I don't have to see the doctor?

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