Possible Symptoms for Vaginitis
- Thin white or gray vaginal discharge
- Thick white discharge that resembles cottage cheese
- Watery discharge with no odor
- Gray-green discharge with a strong odor
- Strong, fish-like odor
- Itching on vagina and vulva
- Redness on vagina and vulva
- Burning sensation on the vagina and vulva
- Soreness of vagina and vulva
- Burning during urination
Top 5 Vaginitis Causes
Antibiotics work by killing bacteria and preventing it from reproducing. However, the vagina has a certain balance of “good” bacteria that protects it from harmful “bad” bacteria and yeast that cause infections like vaginitis. Antibiotics target both good and bad bacteria, increasing the risk for vaginitis.
Many douching products contain iodine, vinegar, baking soda, and other ingredients that can upset the natural pH balance of the vagina and increase the risk for vaginitis. Doctors do not recommend douching due to the way it causes an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina. Other health problems linked to douching include pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, and sexually transmitted infections.
3. Sexual Intercourse
Having unprotected sex with a new partner or having multiple sex partners may change the balance of yeast and good bacteria in the vagina. Some women have an allergic reaction to their partner’s semen or are exposed to harmful organisms during sex that may lead to infection and vaginitis. Other factors that link vaginitis with sex include the use of lubricants, condoms, spermicides, sex toys, and friction to the vagina and vulva during intercourse.
4. Hormonal Changes
Changes to the body’s estrogen levels can upset the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina and cause vaginitis. Factors such as pregnancy, menopause, weight gain, diabetes, and thyroid problems are just some common causes of hormonal imbalances.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease that can cause vaginitis. This disease is caused by a parasite that passes from one partner to the other during sexual intercourse. In women, trichomoniasis is characterized by discomfort while urinating, changes in the appearance and odor of vaginal discharge, and itching, burning, redness, or soreness of the vagina and vulva.
8 Ways to Prevent Vaginitis
1. Avoid Douching
The vagina cleans itself by making mucous that naturally washes away semen, blood, and vaginal discharge. Instead of douching, allow your vagina to clean itself naturally, or stick to using warm water and mild soap.
2. Avoid Scented Vaginal Products
Scented vaginal products like tampons, pads, sprays, and powders can throw off the vagina’s healthy pH balance and cause infection or vaginitis. These products also contain harmful ingredients that can lead to bacteria buildup, irritation, itching, and soreness. Do not use any scented vaginal products. Instead, use pads and tampons that are natural or organic, or that lack harmful ingredients.
3. Use Condoms During Sex
Condoms help prevent the transmission of infections and diseases like trichomoniasis that cause vaginitis. Condoms also form a barrier against sperm to reduce the risk of allergic reactions and irritation.
4. Wear Breathable Clothing
Breathable fabrics help prevent the trapping of heat and moisture near your vagina. Stick to wearing clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton and linen whenever possible. Synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, and acrylic can trap heat and sweat against the skin to create a breeding ground for bacteria and vaginitis. Pantyhose and tight pants may also contribute to vaginitis.
5. Clean Reusable Vaginal Products
Reusable vaginal products, such as menstrual cups, diaphragms, cervical caps, and spermicide applicators, must be cleaned after every use. This reduces the risk of infection and vaginitis the next time you use those products. Read the instructions that come with reusable vaginal products to learn how they can be safely and effectively cleaned.
6. Wipe Front to Back
Always wipe front to back from your vagina to your anus after urinating or having intercourse. Wiping the opposite direction from back to front can expose the vagina to harmful waste and bacteria that contribute to vaginitis.
7. Avoid Bidet Toilets
Habitual use of bidet or warm-water cleaning toilets is shown to upset the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina. Bidet toilets also expose the vagina to fecal bacteria that can cause vaginitis. Do not use bidet toilets, and stick to using warm water and mild soap instead.
8. Don’t Abuse Drugs or Alcohol
Drug and alcohol use can lower your inhibitions and make you more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners are examples of risky sexual behaviors that can lead to sexually transmitted infections and female health problems like vaginitis. Avoid using illicit drugs and always drink responsibly to reduce your risk for vaginitis.
Possible Vaginitis Treatment Options:
- Prescription antibiotics
- Vaginal gels and creams
- Antifungal cream or suppository
- Oral antifungal medication
- Estrogen creams, tablets, or rings
- Abstinence from sex
Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Vaginitis Treatment:
- How long have you been experiencing symptoms?
- Do you douche?
- What type of menstrual products do you use?
- Are you sexually active?
- What type of protection do you use, if any, during sex?
- Do you experience unusual vaginal discharge?
- What is the color and consistency of the discharge?
- Does your vagina or discharge have a strong or unusual odor?
- Have you recently taken antibiotics?
- Are you pregnant, breastfeeding, or going through menopause?
- Do you have any known hormonal health conditions like diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome?
Vaginitis May Also Be Known as:
- Vaginal infection
- Vaginal inflammation
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Yeast infection
- Atrophic vaginitis
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- Medline Plus. Vaginitis. https://medlineplus.gov/vaginitis.html
- Medline Plus. Antibiotics. https://medlineplus.gov/antibiotics.html
- Baylor College of Medicine. Vaginitis. https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/obstetrics-gynecology/conditions/vaginitis
- Office on Women’s Health. Douching. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching
- National Library of Medicine. Bacterial vaginal flora in relation to changing oestrogen levels. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17524189
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet. https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm
- Cornell Health. Vaginal Yeast Infections. https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/vaginal-yeast-infection.pdf
- Office on Women’s Health. Bacterial vaginosis. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/bacterial-vaginosis
- National Library of Medicine. Habitual use of warm-water cleaning toilets is related to the aggravation of vaginal microflora. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21058441
- Office on Women’s Health. Bacterial Vaginosis Fact Sheet. https://www.womenshealth.gov/files/documents/fact-sheet-bacterial-vaginosis.pdf
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Vaginitis. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/vaginitis