Table of Contents
Definition of Vaginitis
Inflammation of the vagina that may occur as a result of irritation or infection. Common causes of irritation-based vaginitis include douches, feminine hygiene products, spermicides, bubble bath, and soaps. Common causes of infection based vaginitis include candidiasis (yeast infection) and sexually transmitted diseases (stds) such as chlamydia and trichomoniasis.
Viruses that may cause vaginitis include herpes simplex 2 (hsv-2), which causes genital herpes, and human papillomavirus (hpv), which may cause clusters of wartlike growths. Other forms of vaginitis are bacterial (called gardnerella) and atrophic (which may occur after menopause).
Symptoms and Diagnostic Path
The symptoms of vaginitis typically include itching, burning, soreness, or other discomfort. When the cause is infection there may be a discharge or unusual odor. The diagnostic path includes discussion of sexual activity and any history of STDs, pelvic examination with pap test, and laboratory examination or culture of any discharge to check for infection.
Treatment Options and Outlook
Treatment depends on the identified cause of the vaginitis and may include antibiotic medications for bacterial infection (including STDs) or antifungal medications for yeast infection. When the cause is irritation, removing exposure to the source (such as a douche solution or spermicide) allows the vaginal tissues to heal.
The doctor may prescribe topical corticosteroid medications to relieve symptoms. Tepid baths in water containing baking soda are often soothing. Wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear and avoiding pantyhose are other helpful measures. Most vaginitis improves rapidly with appropriate treatment.
Risk Factors and Preventive Measures
Vaginitis is very common in women, particularly women who are sexually active. Sexual intercourse, particularly with multiple sex partners or unprotected (without a barrier such as a condom), increases the risk for vaginitis. Women who use intrauterine devices (IUDs) for contraception also have increased risk for vaginitis as well as pelvic inflammatory disease (pid).
Vaginitis is uncommon in prepubertal girls (girls who have not yet begun to menstruate) though may result from escherichia coli infection as a consequence of poor toileting hygiene. Preventive measures include minimizing exposure to potential irritants and wearing clothing that allows some airflow between the fabric and the external genitalia.
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