How Do You Get Vaginitis?

Reviewed on 6/30/2022
Illustration of vaginitis
Vaginitis can be caused by vaginal yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, menopause, breastfeeding, vaginal sex, and more.

Vaginitis is an infection or irritation of the vagina or vulva. 

You can get vaginitis from a reaction to irritating products or when there’s a change in the normal chemical balance of the vagina.

Causes of vaginitis include:

  • Infections 
  • Lack of estrogen (atrophic vaginitis or vaginal atrophy), which may be caused by:
  • Vaginal sex
    • A partner’s natural genital chemistry can change the balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina
    • Friction from sex
    • Use of certain types of lubricants
    • Use of condoms
    • Use of sex toys
    • Allergic reaction to a partner’s semen (rare)
  • Allergies and irritants
    • Douching
    • Scented panty liners, pads, or tampons
    • Perfumed feminine hygiene or bath products
    • Scented or colored toilet paper
    • Some chemicals in laundry detergents and fabric softeners
    • Certain types of lubricants (i.e., flavored or with sugars in them)
    • Spermicide
    • Sex toys made out of certain materials
    • Latex and rubber in sex toys and condoms (for those who have a latex allergy)
    • Wearing tight pants
    • Wearing underwear/pantyhose that don’t have a cotton crotch
    • Wearing wet bathing suits or damp clothing for long periods of time
    • Use of hot tubs or swimming pools

Recurrent vaginitis that occurs four times or more per year may be caused by: 

What Are Symptoms of Vaginitis?

Vaginitis may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms of vaginitis occur, they may include: 

  • Vaginal irritation/discomfort
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
    • With yeast infections, discharge is usually thick, white, and odorless
    • With bacterial vaginosis, discharge is usually grayish, foamy, and smells fishy
    • With trichomoniasis, discharge is usually frothy, yellow-green, smells bad, and may have spots of blood in it
  • Vaginal odor
  • Vaginal itching
  • Vaginal discoloration
  • Vaginal swelling
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Urinary frequency
  • Pain or stinging during urination 

How Is Vaginitis Diagnosed?

The cause of vaginitis is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination, including a pelvic exam. 

Tests used to diagnose the cause of vaginitis may include: 

What Is the Treatment for Vaginitis?

Treatment for vaginitis depends on the cause, the severity of symptoms, and whether or not the patient is pregnant

If vaginitis is caused by a vaginal yeast infection, treatment may include: 

If vaginitis is caused by bacterial vaginosis, treatment may include: 

If vaginitis is caused by trichomoniasis, treatment may include: 

  • Antibiotics
  • All sex partners of the infected person should be treated with antibiotics at the same time

If vaginitis is caused by lack of estrogen, treatment may include: 

  • Estrogen replacement therapy 
  • Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants

If vaginitis is caused by vaginal sex, treatment may include: 

  • Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants
  • Avoiding use of products that cause irritation 

If vaginitis is caused by allergies and irritants, treatment includes avoiding the use of products that cause allergic reactions or irritation.

Reviewed on 6/30/2022

Image Source: iStock Images