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Vaginitis describes a number of conditions that can cause infection or inflammation of your vagina. Vulvovaginitis describes inflammation of both your vagina and your vulva. Your vulva is the external part of your genitals.
Some vaginal infections may not produce any symptoms. If you develop symptoms, the most common are:
The symptoms of vaginal infections will also vary based on the cause of your infection:
Vaginal infections are not life-threatening conditions. However, you should make an appointment to see your doctor if you:
If you experience vaginal irritation and have been diagnosed with yeast infections in the past, you may not need to see your doctor. Yeast infections can be treated at home with over-the-counter vaginal antifungal medications. However, if you’re not sure that you have a yeast infection, it’s always wise to check with your doctor.
Vaginal infections can have a number of causes. If you develop a vaginal infection, your doctor will diagnose and treat your infection based on its cause. Common causes of vaginal infections include:
In some cases, your doctor may not be able to determine the cause of your vaginal infection. This condition is known as nonspecific vulvovaginitis. It can occur in women of any age. It’s more common in young girls that have not entered puberty.
To diagnose a vaginal infection, your doctor will ask you about your health history. They will ask about your current number of sexual partners and your history of past vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Your doctor may also perform a pelvic exam. During this exam, your doctor may collect a sample of vaginal discharge. They’ll send this sample to a laboratory for analysis. This can help your doctor learn what’s causing your infection.
Treatment for vaginal infections will depend on what’s causing your infection. For example:
If your infection is caused by an irritant, such as soap, your doctor will recommend a different product to reduce irritation.
Treatment for vaginal infections is generally very effective. Proper diagnosis will ensure that you receive the right treatment.
Not all vaginal infections can be prevented. Using a condom during sexual intercourse will help prevent the spread of STIs. It will also lower your risk of contracting them. Proper hygiene can also help prevent some vaginal infections. When possible, you should wear cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch. This can lower your risk of developing vaginal inflammation and irritation. Some women develop inflammation and irritation from wearing less breathable fabrics.
Written by: Darla Burke
Medically reviewed on: Feb 25, 2016: Nicole Galan, RN
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