Vaginitis affects women of all ages and occurs when a change in the normal balance of bacteria and yeast inflames the lining of the vagina. Vaginitis can result for a variety of reasons from using antibiotics, douching, infection and hormonal changes during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Vaginitis causes They vary depending on the type of vaginitis:
• Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance in the normal bacteria in the vagina.
• Trichomoniasis Caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis, a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Women who have it are at higher risk for infection from other STIs.
• Yeast infections One of the most common types of vaginitis, yeast infection or candiasis, is an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. Using certain antiobiotics, which kill the normal vaginal bacteria that keep yeast in check, can lead to an overgrowth. Pregnancy and certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV can also cause yeast infections.
• Atrophic vaginitis When hormone levels dip, during breastfeeding or post-menopause, this condition can occur.
Vaginitis symptoms Generally they include itching, irritation or an abnormal vaginal discharge but they vary depending on the type of vaginitis:
• Bacterial vaginosis, the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age, causes an increase in discharge that is dark grey or green with a fishy odour. Occasionally it leads to itchiness.
• Trichomoniasis The discharge with trichomoniasis is green or yellow-gray and may smell fishy. It can also cause irritation, redness, swelling and burning during urination.
• Yeast infections can cause burning and itchy of the vulva, the area outside of the vagina, and a thick cottage cheese-like white discharge with no odour.
• Atrophic vaginitis It causes vaginal dryness, itching, burning, discharge and pain during intercourse.
Vaginitis diagnosis/tests If you experience burning or itching or other vaginitis symptoms, or think you have a yeast infection for the first time, contact your doctor. She will take a sample of the discharge from your vagina and test it to determine the cause. Bacterial vaginosis may be discovered during a routine pelvic examination.
Vaginitis treatment The treatment will depend on the cause:
• Baceterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics, such as clindamycin, taken orally or inserted vaginally as a cream or gel. This condition often returns and may require longer treatment for several months.
• Trichomoniasis Treatment is with oral antibiotics; sexual partners must also be treated to prevent a recurrence.
• Yeast infection Over-the-counter anti-yeast medication in the form of vaginal suppositories or creams or oral pills can be used to treat these infections.
• Atrophic vaginitis Estrogen in the form of cream, a tablet or ring is applied inside the vagina. Water-soluble lubricants during sex can also help.
If symptoms don’t improve after the full course of treatment, see your doctor again.
Vaginitis prevention It is possible to avoid vaginitis:
• Stay dry Avoid clothes that retain moisture, such as tight jeans, nylon panties or wet bathing suits. Wear cotton panties and hose with a cotton panty lining.
• Don’t douche Douching and vaginal sprays may kill off the good bacteria that keep the bad bacteria in check or cause irritation.
• Use condoms Safe sex protects against the STIs that cause some forms of vaginitis.
Health Link BC: Vaginitis