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What is vaginitis?

Vaginitis is an inflammation or infection of the vagina.

What causes vaginitis?

Vaginitis is usually caused by bacteria, a virus, or a fungus. The chemicals in bubble baths, soaps, and perfumes can also cause vaginitis. A foreign body inside the vagina can also cause vaginitis. The infection may spread through sexual activity. It can also pass to a baby during birth.

What increases my risk for vaginitis?

  • Diabetes mellitus that is not controlled
  • Antibiotics, such as those used to treat fungal vaginitis
  • Weakened immune system
  • High estrogen levels, such as during pregnancy or from birth control pills
  • Smoking
  • New or multiple sex partners
  • Sexual abuse
  • Incorrect care of vagina, such as not wiping from front to back
  • Use of spermicide or douche

What are the signs and symptoms of vaginitis?

  • Tenderness, itching, redness, and swelling
  • Foul-smelling odor
  • Thick, curd-like discharge
  • Thin, gray-white discharge
  • Small skin tears or chafing
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Pain when you urinate

How is vaginitis diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your signs and symptoms and examine you. A sample of discharge from your vagina will be tested for infection.

How is vaginitis treated?

  • Antifungals are used to treat a fungal infection. They may be given as a cream, gel, or tablet you insert into your vagina.
  • Antibiotics are used to fight an infection caused by bacteria.

What are the risks of vaginitis?

Your infection may return. Left untreated, the bacteria or virus can spread. This can damage organs, such as your fallopian tubes. The infection can spread to your sexual partner if you do not have safe sex. The infection may lead to pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth or pelvic inflammatory disease.

How can I manage my vaginitis?

  • Wash your vagina with mild soap and warm water each day. Gently dry the area after washing.
  • Do not douche or insert other irritating products into your vagina.
  • Do not wear tight-fitting clothes or undergarments. These can make your symptoms worse.
  • Do not have sex until your symptoms go away. When you have sex, always use a condom. Condoms can help protect you from contact with fluids from your partner that may be causing your vaginitis.

How can I prevent vaginitis?

  • Wipe from front to back after you urinate.
  • Do not use irritating products such as bubble baths or perfumed soaps.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have abdominal pain.
  • Your symptoms get worse, even after treatment.
  • Your symptoms return.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have unusual vaginal bleeding.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.