Alternate Names : Vulvovaginitis, Vaginal Infection, Vaginal Inflammation
Vaginitis is an inflammation of a woman's vagina. It can be caused by bacteria, fungus, viruses, parasites, hormonal changes, or chemicals.
What is going on in the body?
A healthy vagina has a balance of many bacteria and fungi. Normal vaginal discharge is clear, cloudy, or whitish. But the balance in the vaginal environment can be
thrown off by many factors. Following are some of the common factors affecting the balance:
change in hormone levels
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Vaginal yeast infections are a common cause of vaginitis. They are usually caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans. This type of infection often produces an itchy, whitish vaginal discharge that may look like
cottage cheese. Yeast infections are often seen after the woman has taken antibiotics for another infection. The antibiotics interfere with the normal balance of organisms in the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis occurs when several types of harmful bacteria that live in the vagina grow too
fast. No one knows what causes the overgrowth
of these bacteria. The harmful bacteria can replace protective bacteria. This makes the vagina
less acidic. Half of the time, vaginosis causes no symptoms. Some women may have a grayish-white or yellowish-white discharge.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite. It spreads during sexual intercourse. There is a large amount of frothy vaginal discharge. The discharge is usually yellow-gray or green and has an unpleasant odor.
Atrophic vaginitis is associated with low levels of estrogen. The
vagina becomes less acidic. This allows harmful bacteria to nudge out healthy bacteria. The vagina is more susceptible to injury and infection. Some women with this condition have no symptoms. Others have vaginal dryness and burning. Usually this condition occurs after menopause. Sometimes it affects nursing mothers or girls before they reach
Many factors can irritate the vagina or change its acidity, such as the following:
cervicitis, or inflammation of the cervix
chemicals in deodorants, powders, or soaps
chemicals in spermicides, condoms, and diaphragms
an object left in the vagina, such as a forgotten tampon
sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs
Other factors that increase a woman's risk for vaginitis include the following:
clothing that holds heat and moisture, such as nylon panties
hormone replacement therapy
immunodeficiency disorders, which weaken her response to infection