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What is vaginitis?

Vaginitis is an inflammation or infection of your vagina. The most common causes are bacteria, a virus, or fungus. Chemicals in bubble baths, soaps, or perfumes can also cause vaginitis. An infection can spread during sexual activity. You may also develop vaginitis from a foreign object in your vagina, such as rolled up toilet paper left over from wiping.

What are the signs and symptoms of vaginitis?

  • Pain, itching, redness, burning, or swelling in your vagina
  • An odor from your vagina that may be foul or smell like fish
  • Thick, curd-like discharge
  • Thin, gray-white discharge
  • Small skin tears or chafing
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Pain when you urinate

What increases my risk for vaginitis?

  • Diabetes mellitus that is not controlled
  • Antibiotics
  • A weakened immune system
  • High estrogen levels, such as during pregnancy or from birth control pills
  • Use of an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Smoking
  • New or multiple sex partners, or sexual abuse
  • Incorrect care of vagina, such as not wiping from front to back
  • Use of spermicide or douche

How is vaginitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms and examine you. A sample of discharge from your vagina will be tested for infection. You may need other tests to rule out conditions that can cause your signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about any tests you need.

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.

How can I manage vaginitis?

  • Use a sitz bath to ease your symptoms. A sitz bath is a portable tub that fits into the toilet basin. You can also soak in a bathtub that has 4 to 6 inches of warm water. Stay in the sitz bath or tub for 15 to 20 minutes. Ask your healthcare provider how often to do this.
  • Do not use douches other irritating products in your vagina. Examples include bubble baths and perfumed soaps. The vagina is delicate and easily irritated. Ask your healthcare provider if it is okay to use tampons during your monthly periods. You may need to use pads instead until your symptoms go away.
  • 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?

  • Wash your vagina each day. Use mild soap and warm water. Gently dry the area or let it air dry after you wash.
  • Wipe from front to back. Do this after you urinate or have a bowel movement. This will prevent germs from getting into your vagina.

When should I seek immediate care?

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

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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.

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 healthcare providers 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Vaginitis

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