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Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina. The normal environment of the vagina is acidic, which helps prevent overgrowth of organisms that can cause vaginitis. But when disruption of the lining occurs due to extreme stress or antibiotic use, vaginitis may develop. Any woman can get vaginitis.

There are different types of vaginitis. The most common are yeast vaginitis (yeast infection), a bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis, and vaginitis related to sexually transmitted diseases such as Trichimonas.

Signs and symptoms vary depending on what type of vaginitis you have but may include:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Foul odor
  • General vaginal irritation

It is almost always possible to diagnose vaginitis in the office with simple tests that include checking the vaginal acidity or pH, mixing the discharge with a small amount of saline or potassium hydroxide, and looking under the microscope for specific cell changes. Occasionally, vaginal cultures are taken but this usually isn't necessary.

Treatment depends on the type of vaginitis. For uncomplicated yeast infections, over-the-counter antifungal creams can be used. In some situations, women may be given a prescription pill called Diflucan to treat a yeast infection.

For bacterial vaginosis, either oral or vaginal forms of the medications Flagyl or Clinidamycin can be used. For trichimonas, a single dose of Flagyl is used.

Other types of vaginal infections are treated based on specific findings on exam or culture results.

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.