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Vaginitis is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age and it occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain “bad” bacteria in the vagina. Learn more below.

Symptom Overview

Vaginitis describes an inflammation, irritation, or redness of the vagina. The most common causes of vaginitis are bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and vaginal candidiasis – also known as a yeast infection. Vaginitis is a common complaint among women and the majority of the following symptoms are not due to a sexually transmitted infections.

  • Increase in the amount of discharge
  • A change in color or smell of discharge
  • Irritation, itchiness, or burning around the vagina.
  • Pain and itching when urinating
  • Painful sexual intercourse


Vaginal infections are very common. Each year, more than 21 million women in the US have bacterial vaginosis, and more than 3.7 million women have trichomonas infection. And nearly 75 % of adult women will have at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime.


  • Any woman can get vaginitis and it’s important to know that it’s not always due to sexually transmitted infections.
  • Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections mean that there is an imbalance in the vagina – too much bacteria or yeast.
  • Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease and featured later in this section.
  • Due to the variety of ways a woman can acquire vaginitis we consider her risk factors with include:
    • Douching
    • Feminine hygiene sprays
    • Certain soaps or bubble bathes
    • Antibiotics
    • Diabetes
    • Pregnancy
    • New or multiple sex partners
    • Latex or spermicide allergies


A swab takes a sample of fluid from the vagina so it can be examined under the microscope to determine the specific cause.


It is important to go to a medical provider at the sign of irritation to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. Different infections receive different treatments. For example, yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal medications; but trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis and other infections are treated with oral or intravaginal antibiotic medications.

Living with It

Vaginitis can be a recurring problem that require ongoing observation and treatment. Talk to your medical provider about strategies to best manage.

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