What causes vaginitis?

Vaginitis can be caused by an infection or by noninfectious causes. Infectious causes of vaginitis include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis, an overgrowth of the bacteria gardnerella, which normally live in the vagina

  • Chlamydia

  • Genital herpes

  • Gonorrhea

  • Poor genital hygiene, including wiping stool from back to front, which spreads fecal material from the rectal area to the vaginal area and can cause infection

  • Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite

  • Yeast infection of the fungus candida

Noninfectious causes of vaginitis include:

  • Exposure of the female genitals to irritating substances or to allergens, such as perfumed soaps, bubble bath products, douches, detergents, spermicides, and vaginal deodorants

  • Leaving tampons in too long

  • Sexual abuse in girls

  • Taking antibiotics, which can cause an imbalance in the normal growth of bacteria and other microorganisms in the vagina, resulting in an overgrowth of candida and a yeast infection   

  • Wearing thongs or tight-fitting underwear, jeans, or other pants     

What are the risk factors for vaginitis?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing vaginitis. Not all people with risk factors will get vaginitis, and not all people who get vaginitis have risk factors.

Risk factors for vaginitis include:

  • Being sexually active and having multiple sexual partners

  • Having a sensitivity or allergy to perfumed soaps, bubble bath products, douches, detergents, spermicides, or vaginal deodorants

  • Having unprotected sex, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex, with a partner who has had one or more other sexual partners

  • Leaving tampons in too long

  • Poor genital hygiene, including wiping stool from back to front, which spreads fecal material from the rectal area to the vaginal area and can cause infection

  • Sexual abuse in girls

  • Taking antibiotics, which can cause an imbalance in the normal growth of bacteria and other microorganisms in the vagina, resulting in an overgrowth of candida and a yeast infection   

  • Wearing tight-fitting underwear, thongs, jeans, or other pants

Reducing your risk of vaginitis

You can lower your risk of vaginitis by:

  • Abstaining from sexual activity

  • Avoiding exposure of the female genitals to irritating substances or to allergens, such as perfumed soaps, bubble bath products, douches, detergents, spermicides, and vaginal deodorants

  • Changing tampons frequently

  • Engaging in sexual activities only within a mutually monogamous relationship in which neither partner is infected or has risk factors for an infection

  • Getting regular, routine medical care, including pelvic exams

  • Not wearing tight-fitting underwear, thongs, jeans, or other pants

  • Performing regular genital hygiene and wiping the genital area from front to back after bowel movements

  • Seeking medical care as soon as possible after possible after high-risk sexual activity

  • Using a new condom for each sex act

INTRODUCTION

What is vaginitis?

Vaginitis, also called vulvovaginitis, is a common condition in which there is inflammation of the vagina and vulva. Vaginitis can result in vaginal discomfort, such as irritation and heavy vaginal discharge.... Read more about vaginitisintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of vaginitis?

The symptoms of vaginitis result from the inflammation of the moist, sensitive mucosa of the vagina and vulva. Symptoms vary in character and intensity depending on the underlying cause of the vaginitis and individual factors.... Read more about vaginitissymptoms

TREATMENTS

How is vaginitis treated?

Treatment of vaginitis begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows your health care professional to best assess your risks of developing vaginitis and promptly order diagnostic testing as needed. These measures greatly increase the chances of diagnosing and treating underlying causes of vaginitis in their earliest, most curable stages.... Read more about vaginitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jan 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.