An Overview of Vaginitis

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Vaginitis is what doctors call a vaginal infection or vaginal inflammation. In other words, vaginitis isn't a specific disease. It's a type of symptom. Vaginitis may be caused by a variety of infectious and non-infectious sources. That includes a number of STDs.

Symptoms

Vaginitis symptoms may include vaginal itching, vaginal discharge, and vaginal odor. You may have any or all of these symptoms. The intensity of symptoms, and which symptoms you have, depend on the cause of your vaginitis.

Causes

Vaginitis can be caused by a number of different infections. Some of the infections that cause vaginitis are sexually transmitted. Others are not.

Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis are two common causes of vaginitis. These conditions are infections, but they're not generally considered to be STDs. Instead, both yeast infections and BV are thought of as sexually associated infections. They occur more frequently in individuals who are having sex. They are not necessarily passed from one partner to another during sex.

In addition to yeast infections and BV, a number of sexually transmitted diseases can cause vaginitis. These include trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. However, it's important to note that a lack of vaginitis doesn't mean you don't have one of these conditions. Vaginitis describes the symptoms, not the cause, and many people with gonorrhea and chlamydia have asymptomatic infections. That means that they don't have any symptoms.

Diagnosis

Vaginitis is a catch-all term, rather than a diagnosis. Doctors diagnose it based on symptoms. As such, a diagnosis of vaginitis will usually be followed up by further testing. It takes a test for doctors to determine the cause of vaginitis. Only then is it possible for them to figure out what would be the most appropriate treatment. There is no generic treatment for vaginitis symptoms, doctors have to know their cause.

The cause of vaginitis is usually diagnosed using a wet mount, urine testing, vaginal swab tests, or some combination of the above. Doctors may also take a sexual history to determine whether you are likely to have been exposed to an infection.

Treatment

Most common causes of vaginitis are treatable. However, the specific treatment is dependent on what is causing vaginitis symptoms. Proper diagnosis is critical for treatment to be effective. It's also important to know that some causes of vaginitis are harder to treat than others. Other causes may be easy to treat but also likely to come back. For example, many women have recurrent BV and yeast infections. Even when treatment for any given episode is effective, many women experience these infections repeatedly.

It's important to talk to your doctor about whether it's safe to have sex when being treated for vaginitis. If an infection hasn't been fully treated, there is the chance you could pass it to your partner and then become infected again. However, it depends on the condition. For example, evidence suggests that sexual activity during yeast infection treatment is relatively safe. With other infections, you may be more likely to pass them back and forth to a partner, particularly if you're not practicing safer sex.

It's worth noting that just as not all STDs lead to vaginitis symptoms, just because you don't have symptoms of an STD doesn't mean you don't need treatment. Left untreated, some asymptomatic STD infections can cause serious problems including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. That's one reason why doctors regularly screen young women for STDs instead of waiting for them to come in for testing.

A Word From Verywell

Most of the time, vaginitis symptoms are treatable. However, you have to go to the doctor to find out what's causing them. The wrong treatment won't do any good, and it could make things worse. That's why it's important to seek help when you have symptoms of vaginitis. The thought of doing so may make you uncomfortable... but probably less uncomfortable than leaving them untreated.

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