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Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina/internal genitals. Vaginitis may be caused by an infection by bacteria, yeast, viruses and protozoa, or a reaction to chemicals or scents, or a reaction to changes in the body's hormones. The symptoms vary depending on the cause.


The most common causes of vaginitis are from an infection:

  • Yeast infection - caused by the overgrowth of yeast normally found in the vagina
  • Bacterial vaginosis - caused by the overgrowth of bacteria normally found in the vagina
  • Trichomoniasis -  caused by a protozoathat is passed between sexual partners

Another type of vaginitis is atrophic vaginitis. This is an irritation of the vagina caused by thinning tissues and less moisture in the vaginal walls. This often occurs in menopause because of lower amounts of the hormone estrogen.

Other causes of vaginitis may include:

  • scented panty liners, spermicide, soaps, and other perfumed products
  • allergens including topical antifungal agents, semen, and latex
  • douching


Symptoms may include:

  • Irritation or itching of the vagina and/or genital areas
  • Redness, pain, and swelling of genital area
  • A change in genital discharge
  • A change in genital odour
  • Pain with sexual intercourse
  • Discomfort while urinating (peeing)

Tests and Diagnosis

Your health care provider will likely do an exam, and will take samples of the genital discharge. The samples will be sent to the lab for testing.


Vaginal/ internal genital infections are common and often easily treated. It is best to see a health care provider to find out the cause of symptoms and the best treatment options. Yeast is treated with over-the-counter vaginal creams or medication that is available from a pharmacy. Bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis are treated with prescription antibiotics. Atrophic vaginitis can be treated with prescription estrogen cream, or other means you can ask a healthcare provider about. 


There are things you can do to prevent vaginitis:

  • Use unscented soaps or no soap on the genitals
  • Avoid harsh laundry detergents and use a double rinse cycle
  • Wear loose clothing and cotton underwear
  • Avoid over-use of antibiotics
  • Avoid douching, genital deodorant sprays, and scented sanitary products
  • Use a condom during sex
  • Use an unscented, glycerin-free lube


BC Centre for Disease Control – Vaginitis

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