An extremely common condition in women of reproductive age, vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that can cause pain, itching and discharge. Vaginitis is so common that as many as one third of women may be affected by symptoms at some point during their lifetime.  


Changes in the levels of yeast and bacteria that occur naturally in the vagina are often the causes behind vaginitis, as well as infections of the vagina. It can also be caused by a reduction of estrogen levels following menopause. These things can result in inflammation of the vagina.


The symptoms you experience with vaginitis will depend on the cause of the condition. However, common symptoms include:

  • Changes in color or amount of vaginal discharge
  • Odorous discharge
  • Irritation or itching of the vagina
  • Light bleeding or spotting

The type of vaginitis will affect the different symptoms you see. Examples include the following:

  • Bacterial vaginosis (typically gardnerella vaginalis), is caused by an overgrown of naturally occurring organisms of the vagina. This is often characterized by a thin discharge that is dark or dull gray in color, with a fish-like odor.
  • Yeast infection is caused by a fungus called Candida, which can overgrow into an infection. The primary symptom of a yeast infection is itching or burning of the vulva. However, a thick white discharge can occur as well.
  • Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite that is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Trichomoniasis is associated with a yellow-gray or green discharge, as well as burning or itching of the vulva. There may also be pain during urination.

Testing and Treatment

Vaginitis is most often tested by taking a sample of vaginal discharge to determine what type of vaginitis is present. Once the vaginitis is diagnosed, treatment will be determined by the cause of vaginitis.

Bacterial vaginosis is treated with metronidazole or clindamycin, which can be taken by mouth or applied to the vagina in the form of cream or gel. Yeast infections can be treated with antifungal creams, or a prescription of oral antifungal medication. Trichomoniasis, on the other hand, is often solved by a single dose of metronidazole orally. Sexual partners may also be treated to prevent the infection from happening again.

To prevent complications, it is important to get treatment for vaginitis as soon as possible. In pregnancy, some types of vaginitis have been associated with premature births and babies with low birth weight. Women with certain types of vaginitis also have a higher risk of becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of vaginitis, please consult your doctor. To read more about this condition online, please visit The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.