Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina. As many as one in three women will experience symptoms of vaginitis at some point during their life. Although vaginitis can impact women of all ages, it is most commonly seen while in the reproductive years.

Vaginitis occurs when there is a change in the balance of the bacteria that typically reside in the vagina. This change in the balance will cause inflammation in the lining of the vagina.

The following are factors which can alter the normal balance of the vagina:

  • Use of antibiotics
  • Douching
  • Changes in hormone levels due to pregnancy, breastfeeding or menopause
  • Spermicides
  • Infection
  • Sexual intercourse

Vaginitis diagnosis involves taking a sample of vaginal discharge and examining it with a microscope. Additional tests may also be recommended. The cause of vaginitis will determine the course of treatment either being with a pill or with the application of a cream or gel.

Candidiasis, more often called a yeast infection, is among the most common forms of a vaginal infection. A fungus called Candida is what causes a yeast infection to occur. Although small amounts of candida are normal found in the vagina, if the balance of the bacteria and yeast is changed, the yeast can overgrow and result in symptoms. Increased risk of yeast infections can result from the use of some types of antibiotics. Antibiotics can kill the normal vaginal bacteria that keep yeast levels in balance. Yeast infections are more likely to occur in women who are pregnant or have diabetes. Over elevated yeast levels will also occur if the body’s immune system is not functioning properly.

Itching and burning in the area outside the vagina called the vulva are the most typical symptoms of a yeast infection. Other symptoms can include redness and swelling in the vulva area and an increase or change in the discharge. The vaginal discharge is generally white, lumpy, and odorless.

Treatments for yeast infections are administered by either inserting medication into the vagina or by taking a pill orally.  Although safe and often effective, over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections cause issues with self diagnosis. Many women believe they have a yeast infection when it’s actually something else. In these instances, yeast infection medications will not work and they could interfere with an accurate diagnosis and treatment of the specific problem.

Although you may have previously had a yeast infection, it may be best to consult your health care provider before using any over-the-counter medications. If you are experiencing these symptoms for the first time, you should visit your health care provider right away.

Dr Jeffrey Harris