Vaginitis

Vaginitis

Vaginitis literally means an inflammation of the vagina. The condition is a symptom rather than disease in itself. Vaginitis is often caused by infections, allergies, hormonal changes or irritations.

Symptoms

  • Burning in vagina
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Pain when urinating
  • Discomfort during sex

What causes vaginitis?

The commonest causes of vaginitis are infections, but sometimes allergies to products such as soap or perfume, or to the latex in some condoms, can be responsible. In some cases, vaginitis results from organisms that are passed between sexual partners. The term "yeast infection" is what most women think of when they hear the word vaginitis. However, a yeast infection is only one kind of vaginal infection. Vaginitis can be caused by several different organisms, sometimes at the same time, as well as by hormonal changes, allergies, or irritations.

Common infections that cause vaginitis include: thrush, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis (which is sexually transmitted and caused by a tiny parasite), chlamydia (also transmitted sexually), genital herpes (another sexually transmitted infection), chemical irritation (often a reaction to soap, fabric conditioner or spermicide) or from douching.

How is vaginitis treated?

Treatment will depend on the cause.

Thrush can be treated easily with anti-thrush remedies in the form of tablets, pessaries or creams available through NHS or private prescription or over-the-counter.

Consult a doctor if the itching is severe or ongoing. A GP will take a vaginal swab to determine the cause and treatment. Infections such as chlamydia and trichomoniasis are treated with prescription-only antibiotics. Genital herpes is treated with antiviral tablets.

The vagina cleans itself with natural secretions but you should wash the area around the vagina (vulva) daily with unperformed soaps or wipes designed for this purpose. Douching can upset the natural balance of bacteria and fungi in the vagina and actually cause rather than prevent thrush or bacterial vaginosis.

To ease itchiness use a vaginal itching treatment or vaginal moisturiser. Using 1% hydrocortisone cream (available over the-counter) may also provide relief.

Alternative remedies/Self-help

  • Healthy eating and regular exercise will promote good general and good vaginal health.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes to let air-circulate to prevent itching and chaffing.
  • Pay particular attention to toilet hygiene, and always wipe from front to back.
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