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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Vaginitis
      Category : Health Centers > Reproductive System


Alternate Names : Vulvovaginitis, Vaginal Infection, Vaginal Inflammation

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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
  • impaired health
  • normal aging
  • sexual activity
  • stress
  • 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 puberty.

    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
  • douches
  • an object left in the vagina, such as a forgotten tampon
  • sex toys
  • sexual intercourse
  • sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs
  • Other factors that increase a woman's risk for vaginitis include the following:

  • breastfeeding
  • clothing that holds heat and moisture, such as nylon panties
  • diabetes
  • hormone replacement therapy
  • immunodeficiency disorders, which weaken her response to infection
  • menopause
  • oral contraceptives
  • poor hygiene
  • pregnancy
  • stress


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    Vaginitis: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 09/11/01

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