Vaginitis may be caused by bacteria, yeast, or other organisms. Bath products, douches, and spermicides also can irritate the vagina and cause itching and discomfort.
The three most common types of vaginitis and their causes are:
Yeast infection. A healthy vagina normally contains a small number of yeast cells, along with a certain number of bacteria. Normally there aren't enough of the yeast cells to cause problems. But sometimes something happens to the vagina that lets the yeast cells multiply quickly and take over, causing symptoms. Taking antibiotics sometimes causes this. Being pregnant, taking birth control pills that contain estrogen, or having hormone therapy can also cause it. So can some health problems, like diabetes or HIV infection.
Bacterial vaginosis. This happens when some of the bacteria normally found in the vagina are able to multiply quickly, causing symptoms. Experts are not sure what causes this. But certain things make it more likely to happen. These include having more than one sex partner, having a female sex partner, having a sexually transmitted infection, using an IUD for birth control, and douching.
Trichomoniasis. This is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite. You get it by having sex with someone who has it. It is commonly called trich (say "trick").
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 with menopause as a result of the decrease in the hormone estrogen. Surgery to remove the ovaries can have the same effect.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of vaginitis may include:
A change in your normal vaginal discharge, including gray, green, or yellow discharge.
Vaginal redness, swelling, itching, or pain.
Burning when you urinate.
Pain or bleeding when you have sex.
How is vaginitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will check your vagina for redness and swelling and will take a sample of vaginal discharge. The sample can be tested in a lab to see what is causing the problem.