Diagnosis and Treatment of Vaginitis/Vaginosis


Vaginitis refers to itching or burning in the vagina, and is often combined with an unusual smell or discharge. Two common types of vaginitis are Candida (yeast) infections and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), neither of which are sexually transmitted.

If you have any of the above symptoms, please call Women's Health to find the best time to see a provider. You may be seen for a "same day"  appointment. The provider will typically perform a pelvic exam and take a small sample of vaginal secretions to look at under the microscope. Results are given at the visit. Treatment, which can include oral or vaginal medication, will be prescribed by Women's Health.

What is Vaginitis?Vaginitis refers to the symptoms produced when the normal vaginal environment, also called the vaginal flora, becomes unbalanced. The vagina is not a sterile environment, hosting normal bacteria and organisms, including lactobacilli, that allow the vagina to maintain a slightly acidic balance. A healthy vagina will normally produce vaginal discharge that is clear, non-odorous, and may change with the menstrual cycle.

Changes in the normal vaginal environment, especially with sexual activity, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, douching, wet clothing, tight pants, changes in diet, illness, some medications, and exposure to perfumes and other chemicals, such as bubble bath, can result in vaginitis. The two common types of vaginitis include Candida (yeast) and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).

What are the Symptoms of Vaginitis?Several common symptoms of vaginitis include: increased vaginal discharge, a change in color or consistency of your normal vaginal discharge, odorous discharge, and vaginal itching and burning. Some women may have all of these symptoms, while others may have none.

How is Vaginitis Diagnosed?Vaginitis is easily diagnosed by your health care provider. First an assessment of the specific symptoms you are having will aid in diagnosis. Additionally, any recent use of medications, including antibiotics and oral contraceptives will be explored. Recent use of perfumes and chemicals, such as bubble baths, deodorant tampons, douches, and spermicides will also be reviewed.

It is likely that a speculum exam will be performed. A small amount of vaginal discharge will be evaluated. First the healthcare provider will assess the pH and consistency of the discharge. Use of a microscope will allow for the provider to look for yeast buds and hypae, which are characteristic of Candida infections. Bacterial infections can also be diagnosed by looking under the microscope. Specifically, the provider will look for normal vaginal epithelial cells that are obscured by bacteria.

How is Vaginitis Treated?Vaginitis is usually treated very easily. Candida infections can be treated using intravaginal creams for a period of 3-7 days. Intravaginal creams can be either purchased over-the-counter at a pharmacy or can be prescribed by your healthcare provider. One day, over-the-counter treatments may work, but are not recommended for most patients due to increased side effects of vaginal burning and irritation.

Important: Latex condoms and diaphragms can be weakened when exposed to some creams used to treat candida infections.

If this is the first time you have ever experienced symptoms of a yeast infection, please see a healthcare provider at Women's Health before you diagnosis and treat yourself. Additionally, an oral medication (Diflucan/Fluconazole) may also be used to cure certain strains of Candida. Click here for more information...

Bacterial vaginosis is also treated relatively easily through either intravaginal creams or oral medications. Vaginal creams and gels (Cleocin Vaginal and MetroGel) are used for 5 nights. Oral medication (Flagyl/Metronidazole) can be used in place of the cream and are taken twice a day for 7 days. Treatment for bacterial vaginosis is only available from your healthcare provider. Click here for more information...

Important: Alcohol and products containing alcohol MUST be avoided when using medications to treat bacterial vaginosis

How Can I Prevent Vaginitis?1. Avoiding tight fitting clothing, like spandex and pantyhose
2. Avoiding perfumed and scented tampons/maxi-pads
3. Avoiding use of mini-pads on non-menstrual days
4. Not douching
5. Limiting bubble baths and use of perfumed shower gels
6. Limiting time spent in wet work-out clothing or swim suits
7. Wiping from front to back after using the bathroom
8. Wearing cotton crotch underwear

What Should I do if I think I Have Vaginitis?Stop suffering! Make an appointment with a Women's Heath provider by calling 215.746.3535.