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Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain. The cause is usually a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria or an infection. Vaginitis can also result from reduced estrogen levels after menopause.
The most common types of vaginitis are:
Complications of Vaginitis
Generally, vaginal infections don't cause serious complications. In pregnant women, however, both bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis have been associated with premature deliveries and low birth weight babies. Women infected with trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis are also at a greater risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Causes of Vaginitis
The cause depends on the type of vaginitis you have.
Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina. Usually, "good" bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber "bad" bacteria (anaerobes) in your vagina. But if anaerobic bacteria become too numerous, they upset the balance and bacterial vaginosis results. This type of vaginitis can spread during sexual intercourse, but it also occurs in people who aren't sexually active. Women with new or multiple sex partners, as well as women, who douche or use an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control, have a higher risk of bacterial vaginosis.
Yeast infections occur when certain internal or external factors change the normal environment of your vagina and trigger an overgrowth of a microscopic fungus - the most common being C. albicans. A yeast infection isn't considered a sexually transmitted disease. Besides causing most vaginal yeast infections, C. albicans also causes infections in other moist areas of your body, such as in your mouth (thrush), skin folds and fingernail beds. The fungi can also cause diaper rash.
Factors that increase your risk of yeast infections include:
Bubble baths, vaginal contraceptives, damp or tightfitting clothing, and feminine hygiene products, such as sprays and deodorants, don't cause yeast infections, but they may increase your susceptibility to infection.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. The organism usually infects the urinary tract in men, but often causes no symptoms in men. Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina in women.
Vaginal sprays, douches, perfumed soaps, scented detergents and spermicidal products may cause an allergic reaction or irritate the delicate skin of your vulva and vagina. Vaginal itching and burning can also result from thinning of the vaginal lining caused by a drop in your hormone levels after natural menopause or surgical removal of your ovaries.
Signs & Symptoms of Vaginitis
Vaginitis symptoms may include:
Additionally, you may have these signs and symptoms depending on the type of vaginitis:
Diagnosis of Vaginitis
To diagnose your condition, your doctor may review your history of vaginal infections or sexually transmitted diseases and conduct a pelvic examination. Your doctor may take a sample of a cervical or vaginal discharge for laboratory analysis. This sample can confirm what kind of vaginitis you have.
Treatments of Vaginitis
The type of medication used for vaginitis treatment depends on which type you have:
Prevention of Vaginitis
Good hygiene may prevent some types of vaginitis from recurring and may relieve some symptoms:
Other things that may help prevent vaginitis include:
When to seek Medical Advice
You probably need to see your doctor if you have new vaginal concerns and:
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