Intimate Wellness Institute

What is vaginitis?

Vaginitis refers to any inflammation of the vagina. Inflammation may be infectious or noninfectious. It’s common in women of all ages. One-third of women have at least one form of vaginitis at some time during their lives.

When the walls of the vagina become inflamed, because some irritant has disturbed the balance of the vaginal area, vaginitis can occur.

What causes vaginitis?

Bacteria, yeast, viruses, chemicals in creams or sprays, and even clothing can cause vaginitis. Sometimes, it occurs from organisms that are passed between sexual partners. Also, a number of different factors can affect the health of your vagina. These include your overall health, your personal hygiene, medicines, hormones (particularly estrogen), and the health of your sexual partner. Changes in any of these factors can trigger vaginitis.

These are the most common types of vaginitis:

  • Candida or “yeast” infection
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Trichomoniasis vaginitis
  • Viral vaginitis

Infectious Vaginitis

We will consider other causes of vaginal discharge such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. These organisms don’t infect the vagina directly. If left untreated, they can lead to serious conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID increases a woman’s risk of infertility, pelvic scarring, chronic pelvic pain, and ectopic pregnancy. Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S., although it often goes undiagnosed.

What is candida or “yeast” infections?

Yeast infections, as they are commonly called, are caused by one of the many species of fungus known as candida. It normally lives in the vagina in small numbers. Candida can also be present in the mouth and digestive tract in both men and women.

Yeast is normally present and well-balanced in the vagina. Infection occurs when something upsets this normal balance. For example, taking an antibiotic to treat another infection may upset this balance. In this case, the antibiotic kills the bacteria that normally protects and balances the yeast in the vagina. In turn, the yeast overgrows, causing an infection. Other factors that can cause imbalance include a weak immune system, pregnancy, and diabetes.

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

The following are the most common symptoms of a candida infection:

  • A thick, white, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge that is watery and usually odorless
  • Itching and redness of the vulva and vagina
  • Pain with urination or sex

The symptoms of a vaginal candida infection may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.

Who is at risk for yeast infections?

Any woman can get a yeast infection. A woman may be at an increased risk if she:

  • Has had a recent course of antibiotics
  • Is pregnant
  • Has diabetes that is not well-controlled
  • Has HIV
  • Is taking an immunosuppressant medicine
  • Is using high-estrogen contraceptives
  • Is undergoing corticosteroid therapy, which weakens the immune system

How is a yeast infection diagnosed?

Your health care provider will review your medical history and do a physical and pelvic exam. He or she may also examine the vaginal discharge with a microscope.

Treatment for candida may include:

  • Antifungal vaginal creams and suppositories
  • Vaginal tablets
  • Oral antifungal medicines

What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common cause of vaginal discharge in women of reproductive age. This is caused by an imbalance of bacteria. With bacterial vaginosis, there is a change in the type of bacteria that grows in the vagina.

What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

These are the most common symptoms for bacterial vaginosis:

  • A homogeneous, thin discharge at times
  • “Fishy” odor

The symptoms of bacterial vaginosis may look like other conditions. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.

Treatment for bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by bacteria; therefore, it is generally treated with antibiotics.

Chronic Vaginitis and Biofilms

Biofilms are a collection of bacteria that can form a mucus like layer on the surface of tissue. There is growing evidence that biofilm formation is a significant cause of chronic bladder and vaginal infections. Biofilms are resistant to antibiotic treatment. IWI is the only practice in the region that has gentle resurfacing lasers and radiofrequency devices that can disrupt the biofilm to allow successful antibiotic treatment.