Q. What is vaginitis?
A. Vaginitis (“vaj-in-i-tis”) is an inflammation of the vagina that causes vaginal discharge (fluid from the vagina), irritation, and itching. Many women with vaginitis also have vaginal infections. The doctor may test the vaginal fluid to check for vaginitis. There are many medicines that can treat vaginitis.
Q. What are vaginal infections?
A. The three most common vaginal infections are vaginal yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis. Bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis can be passed from one person to another person during sex. Yeast infections are not a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Q. What is a vaginal yeast infection?
A. Vaginal yeast infections are caused by too many yeast cells in the vagina. About 75 percent of all women will have at least one yeast infection in their lives.
Q. What causes a vaginal yeast infection?
A. Pregnancy, diabetes, the birth control pill, and antibiotics can cause yeast infections in women. Douching, feminine hygiene sprays, and tight clothing and underwear also can cause yeast infections.
Q. What are the signs of yeast infections?
A. Itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina are the most common signs of yeast infections. Some women also have painful urination and/or sex, a thick, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge, and often an unpleasant odor.
Q. How are yeast infections treated?
A. Yeast infections are treated with anti-fungal medicines. Both creams and pills can be purchased over-the-counter. You should see your doctor before treating yourself with an over-the-counter yeast infection product, to be sure your symptoms are caused by a yeast infection.
Q. What is bacterial vaginosis (BV)?
A. Bacterial vaginosis (“vaj-in-o-sis”) is an infection that causes vaginitis in women. BV is caused by changes in the kinds of bacteria living in a woman’s vagina. It can be passed from one person to another person during sex, but also can be found in women who are not having sex. Having an IUD may increase a woman’s chances of getting BV. Although the effects of BV are unknown, there is evidence showing that BV can cause bad outcomes in pregnancy such as premature birth and low birth weight infants.
Q. What are the signs of bacterial vaginosis?
A. The main sign of BV is a vaginal discharge (fluid from the vagina) with a fishy odor. The odor is most noticeable after sex. Many women with BV have no symptoms.
Q. How is bacterial vaginosis treated?
A. BV is treated with antibiotics (medicine that kills bacteria). Most of the time, male sex partners of women with BV are not treated with antibiotics. However, your doctor might want to treat the man if the woman’s infection is not cleared up with antibiotics. Many women do not get treated for BV. It will not go away on its own and must be treated to relieve symptoms and discomfort.
Q. What is trichomoniasis?
A. Trichomoniasis (“trik-o-mo-ni-a-sis”) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This means it is a disease that you get by having sex with someone who already has trichomoniasis. It is caused by a parasite (microbe) that affects the urinary tract in men and the vagina in women. A parasite is like a germ too small to see that doesn’t belong in the body. Trichomoniasis affects about two to three million men and women in the United States each year.
Q. What are the signs of trichomoniasis?
A. Signs of trichomoniasis can show up four to 20 days after having sex with a person infected with the disease. Some people have signs that show up years after they are infected. Other people never have any signs at all. The signs of trichomoniasis are:
- Heavy yellow-green or gray vaginal discharge (fluid from the vagina)
- Vaginal odor
- Painful sex
- Painful urination
- Irritation and itching around the vaginal area
- Pain in the lower belly
Q. What is the treatment for trichomoniasis?
A. Trichomoniasis is treated with medicine called metronidazole (“met-ro-ni-da-zol”). Both sex partners are treated with the medicine even if they do not have signs of the disease.