What is Vaginitis

Vaginitis is a medical term that is used to describe the infection or inflammation of the vagina that can lead to symptoms of itching, burning, a change in vaginal discharge or painful intercourse. Vaginitis itself can be caused by a number of different things like bacterial infections, viral infections or the irritation left by chemicals found in vaginal creams and sprays.


Although there are many causes of vaginitis the most common ones are linked to sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis [1]. Other causes include vaginal yeast infections (candida) or bacterial vaginosis (a mild infection of the vagina caused by bacteria).

Risk Factors

Whatever the cause of the vaginitis may be, some factors are known to increase a woman’s chances of developing it and here are just a few of them [2]:

  • Hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy, birth control pills or menopause
  • Having a sexually transmitted infection
  • Medications, such as antibiotics and steroids
  • Use of spermicides for birth control
  • Use of hygiene products such as bubble bath, vaginal spray or vaginal deodorant
  • Wearing damp or tightfitting clothing

Symptoms of Vaginitis

The most common symptoms of vaginitis include vaginal discharge, odor, itching, and/or discomfort in the vaginal area [1]. Other symptoms may also include:

  • Burning or a feeling of irritation in the vaginal area
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Spotting or bleeding in between your period
  • Pain when passing urine

When to See Your Gynecologist

If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above or notice any ongoing pain/irritation in the genital area then make an appointment to see your gynecologist as soon as possible. They will be able to carry out an exam, run some tests and start any necessary treatments.

If you’re still unsure if you need to see your doctor here are a few things to keep in mind [2]:

  • You notice a particularly unpleasant vaginal odor, discharge or itching.
  • You’ve had vaginal infections in the past.
  • You’ve had multiple sex partners or a recent new partner. This is particularly important because you could have a sexually transmitted infection.
  • You’ve completed a course of over-the-counter anti-yeast medication and your symptoms still persist.
  • You have a fever, chills or pelvic pain
  • If you’re still in doubt, make an appointment. It’s always better to be safe.

Diagnosis of Vaginitis

The diagnosis of vaginitis will usually be made by your gynecologist after they take a full history, conduct a physical examination and do some tests which may include a vaginal swab and blood tests. In a few cases, more complex investigations like an ultrasound sound scan, a CT scan or a laproscopy (a camera test used to visualize the inside of the uterus) may be required.


The treatment of vaginitis depends on the underlying cause. If the cause is linked to a sexually transmitted infection then your gynaecologist will prescribe you some antibiotics to treat the infection. All other causes of vaginitis are treated on a case by case basis depending on what the test results reveal. The goal of all treatments is to help relieve your symptoms and provide effective pain relief.


1) Uptodate. Vaginitis. Jack D Sobel, MD. Last updated August 19, 2016

2) Mayo Clinic. Vaginitis.