Vaginitis 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. Reduced estrogen levels after menopause and some skin disorders can also cause vaginitis.

The most common types of vaginitis are :

Bacterial vaginosis. which results from a change of the normal bacteria found in your vagina to overgrowth of other organisms

Yeast infections. which are usually caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans.

Trichomoniasis. which is caused by a parasite and is commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse.

Treatment depends on the type of vaginitis you have.


Vaginitis signs and symptoms can include :

  • Change in color, odor or amount of discharge from your vagina
  • Vaginal itching or irritation
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Painful urination
  • Light vaginal bleeding or spotting

If you have vaginal discharge, which many women don’t, the characteristics of the discharge might indicate the type of vaginitis you have. Examples include :

Bacterial vaginosis. You might develop a grayish-white, foul-smelling discharge. The odor, often described as a fishy odor, might be more obvious after sexual intercourse.

Yeast infection. The main symptom is itching, but you might have a white, thick discharge that resembles cottage cheese.

Trichomoniasis. An infection called trichomoniasis (trik-o-moe-NIE-uh-sis) can cause a greenish-yellow, sometimes frothy discharge.


Good hygiene may prevent some types of vaginitis from recurring and may relieve some symptoms :

Avoid baths, hot tubs and whirlpool spas.

Avoid irritants These include scented tampons, pads, douches and scented soaps. Rinse soap from your outer genital area after a shower, and dry the area well to prevent irritation. Don’t use harsh soaps, such as those with deodorant or antibacterial action, or bubble bath.

Wipe from front to back after using the toilet Doing so avoids spreading fecal bacteria to your vagina.

Other things you can do that may help prevent vaginitis include :

Don’t douche 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.

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