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Vaginitis, an inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the vagina, affects as many as one-third of all women during their lifetime.  Symptoms can include a burning and/or itching sensation , abnormal vaginal discharge as well as odor.  It can affect all ages.  Treatments vary with the causes of vaginal infections. Vaginitis may be caused by bacterial or fungal infection, vitamin B deficiency, intestinal worms, irritation from excessive douching or use of deodorant sprays.

Infectious vaginitis is often caused by trichomonas, gonococci or other STD’s.

The normal vagina has a clear, cloudy or whitish discharge.  Many organisms are in a delicate balance in the vagina. Plain yogurt may help restore balance.  Wear white cotton underwear for circulation of air; keeping clean and dry.

Before treating an infection, a diagnosis is necessary. A sample of the vaginal discharge is looked at under a microscope.  Addititional tests may be needed.  Treatment is recommended as soon as the diagnosis is made.  

Things that can affect the normal balance are: 

  • antibiotics and diabetes
  • changes in hormone levels through pregnancy, breast-feeding, menopause, and some birth control pills or oral contraceptives
  • douches, poor hygiene and tight nonporous clothing (synthetic nylon)
  • spermacides
  • sexual intercourse
  • sexually transmitted disease

Types of Common Vaginal Infections





Yeast Infection

fungus: Candida 
A small amount of Candida albicans occurs naturally in the vagina

Itching, burning of the vagina and vulva; cottage cheese-like or thick white discharge.  You may have no symptoms

You can use over-the counter medications but there are times you should see your care giver.  Usually your partner does not need to be treated.  You may also be treated with a one time dose of oral medication.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Overgrowth of naturally occurring vaginal bacteria

Discharge with a fishy odor, which is stronger during your period and after sex.  May have itching, dull-gray colored discharge

Two antibiotics can be used: metronidazole (vaginally or orally) and clindamycin (vaginally or orally).  May require long-term or repeat treatments. Metronidazole is most commonly used.  Your partner may need to be treated if you get recurrent infections.


Sexually transmitted parasite

Yellow-gray or green discharge, burning, itching, fishy odor, redness and swelling can occur.  Occasional pain with urination.

Usually a single dose of metronidazole by mouth is given for you and your partner.  Both of you must be treated AT THE SAME TIME.

Atrophic vaginitis

Decreased amounts of estrogen.  Can occur during  menopause, breast-feeding

Vaginal dryness, burning

Vaginal or oral estrogen; water soluble lubricant if estrogen cannot be taken

Allergic Vaginitis

Allergic reaction to spermacides and more rarely, latex

Burning, redness, swelling, pain with urination

Stop using spermacides and/or latex.  See your care giver.

See your care giver if: 

  • This is your first yeast infection
  • Your symptoms do not go away after ONE treatment - you may NOT have a yeast infection and continued use of OTC medications can mask a more serious problem.    OTC drugs do not cure ALL yeast infections
  • You have a yellow or green discharge
  • You have been exposed to an STD 

Preventing Vaginal Infections

  • Avoid feminine hygiene sprays, deodorant tampons, and douching
  • Clean your diaphragm, cervical cap, and spermacides applicators thoroughly in warm soapy water and dry.  Use cornstarch on your diaphragm and cervical cap lightly
  • Use condoms
  • If you are prone to frequent infections, ecchinacea with golden seal, acidophilus, and a mild vinegar and water douche after your per may help prevent occurrences.  If you have to take antibiotics, use yeast medications while taking them if you get frequent yeast infections


Last updated by Dr. Joshua & Evangelist Sherilyn May 30, 2009.

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