July 09, 2009


Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina. It is often caused by infections, some of which are associated with serious diseases. The most common vaginal infections are
Some vaginal infections are transmitted through sexual contact, but others, such as yeast infections, probably are not.

Other causes of vaginitis
Although most vaginal infections in women are due to bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, or yeast, there may be other causes as well. These causes include other sexually transmitted infections, allergic reactions, and irritations.
Allergic symptoms can be caused by spermicides, vaginal hygiene products, detergents, and fabric softeners. Inflammation of the cervix (opening to the womb) from these products often is associated with abnormal vaginal discharge, but health care providers can tell them apart from true vaginal infections by doing lab tests.

This infection is caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans in the vagina. Candida is yeast, which is a type of fungus.

Yeast are always present in the vagina in small numbers, and symptoms only appear with overgrowth. Health experts estimate that approximately 75 percent of women will have at least one yeast infection with symptoms during their lifetimes; 40 to 45 percent will experience two or more episodes.

Several factors are associated with increased yeast infection in women, including
Uncontrolled diabetes mellitu
Oral contraceptives or antibiotics
Feminine hygiene sprays
Topical antibiotics and steroid medicines
Weakened or compromised immune systems

Wearing tight, poorly ventilated clothing and underwear also can contribute to vaginitis. Women with chronic (recurring) yeast infections should work with their health care providers to find out possible underlying causes.

Health experts do not know whether yeast can be transmitted sexually. Because almost all women have the fungus in their vaginas, it has been difficult for researchers to study this.

The most frequent symptoms of yeast infection in women are itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina. Painful urination and painful intercourse also are common.
Vaginal discharge is not always present and may only be present in small amounts. The thick, whitish-gray discharge is typically described as cottage-cheese-like, although it can vary from watery to thick.

Most male partners of women with yeast infections do not have any symptoms of the infection. Some men, however, have reported temporary rashes and burning sensations of the penis after intercourse if they did not use condoms.

Because few specific signs and symptoms of yeast infections are usually present, health care providers cannot diagnose this condition by a person’s medical history and physical examination. They usually diagnose yeast infection by examining vaginal secretions under a microscope for evidence of yeast.

Various antifungal vaginal medicines are available to treat yeast infections. Women can buy antifungal creams to be applied directly to the area, tablets to be taken orally, or suppositories (butoconazole, miconazole, clotrimazole, and tioconazole) for use in the vagina.

Because bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and yeast infections are difficult to tell apart on the basis of symptoms alone, a woman with vaginal symptoms should see her health care provider for an accurate diagnosis before using these products.
Women who have chronic or recurring yeast infections may need to be treated with vaginal creams or oral medicines for long periods of time. HIV-infected women can develop severe yeast infections that often do not respond to treatment.

Adapted from: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (