Vaginal Infections

(Vaginitis) Women's Health

Most women experience a vaginal infection at some point, and some have recurrent problems for many years. The different types of vaginitis share some symptoms. Therefore, to ensure successful treatment, visit your medical provider for an exam, testing, and an accurate diagnosis.

A healthy vagina produces a clear or cloudy/whitish discharge daily. Certain factors change this discharge, allowing bacteria to overgrow and cause vaginitis. These factors include:

  • Douching
  • Antibiotics
  • Menstrual blood
  • Semen
  • Spermicides
  • Changes in hormonal levels
  • Sexually transmitted infections

Some of the most common types of vaginitis are atrophic vaginitis, bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas vaginitis and yeast infection.

Atrophic Vaginitis

A lack of estrogen, which occurs in menopause, during breastfeeding, and due to certain medication regimens such as gender-affirming hormone therapy, causes this inflammation of the vagina. Symptoms include vaginal burning and dryness. Treatment usually involves an estrogen cream or water-soluble lubricant.

Bacterial Vaginosis

A thin, gray discharge and a strong fishy odor are symptoms of this infection. Treatment includes antibiotic pills or cream. It is not a sexually transmitted disease.

Yeast Infection

This is the most common type of vaginitis. Symptoms include itching, burning, and a thick, white odorless discharge. Treatment comes in the form of either a pill or cream. This is not a sexually transmitted disease per se. However, partner evaluation or treatment may be indicated in certain situations, especially frequent, recurrent infections. Men can get yeast infections of the penis (balanitis), especially if they are uncircumcised. It is also possible, though low risk, that women who have sex with women may spread vaginal yeast infections to their partners.