Vaginal Infection - Office Visit

This is an inflammation or infection of the vagina, a passageway from the uterus to the outside of the female body.

This is an inflammation or infection of the vagina, a passageway from the uterus to the outside of the female body.

The vagina is a muscular tube or passageway that extends from the opening of the uterus (cervix) to the outside of the female body. Vaginitis is an inflammation or infection of the vagina. The most common causes of vaginitis are bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, Trichomoniasis, and atrophic vaginitis.

  • Bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of certain bacteria that normally live in the vagina. This is not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, sexual intercourse may be a risk factor since this form of vaginitis is rare in women who are not sexually active.
  • Yeast infection is a vaginal overgrowth of Candida albicans (a fungus that naturally occurs in small amounts in the vagina).
  • Trichomoniasis is infection of the vagina by a parasite commonly transmitted during sexual intercourse.
  • Atrophic vaginitis is a thinning of the vagina wall (vaginal atrophy). This is usually caused by the loss of estrogen production after menopause.

Men may have the same bacteria that cause some forms of vaginitis in their genital area. However, men rarely develop inflammation from those bacteria.

The risk factors for developing vaginitis may include:

  • Changing sexual partners or having multiple sexual partners
  • Douching
  • Using tobacco products
  • An infection elsewhere in the body
  • Use of antibiotics
  • Reduced estrogen levels after menopause

Some of the symptoms of vaginitis include:

  • Increased pasty, thin, white or gray vaginal discharge that coats the vaginal walls
  • An unpleasant vaginal odor, often "fishy" smelling, especially after sex or during menstruation
  • Vaginal itching, burning, redness and/or swelling of the vulva (lips that cover the female genitals)
  • Painful intercourse

Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of vaginitis.

  • He or she will ask questions about your medical/sexual history and do a physical exam.
  • Tests of any vaginal secretions seen will likely be done

Treatment for a vaginal infection depends on the type of vaginitis you have.

  • Your healthcare provider will usually prescribe medications that treat the specific cause of your symptoms.
  • The medications may be given my mouth or a vaginal cream, suppository or gel.

If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, it is important to finish the prescription to prevent a recurrence. Do not have sexual intercourse until treatment is complete.

  • Treatment of your sexual partner(s) is not generally recommended. However, not having sex or consistent use of condoms may decrease the risk of recurrence.
  • Many experts recommend that women be treated for bacterial vaginosis before pelvic surgery. This is done to decrease the risk of infection after surgery.

If you are being treated with the antibiotic metronidazole, it is important to avoid alcohol while taking it and for at least 24 hours after the last dose. Drinking alcohol while you are taking this medication orally or vaginally can cause symptoms such as:

  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Fast heart rate
  • A tingling feeling

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of a vaginal infection.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What type of vaginitis do I have?
  • What treatment are you recommending? Are there any alternatives?
  • Is there anything I can do to help my symptoms?
  • Should I abstain from sexual intercourse?
  • Should my partner be treated?
  • If medication is recommended, what are the possible side effects?
  • How long will I need to take medication?
  • When might I start to see improvement in my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need? What is the reason for those tests? Will the test results change my treatment plan?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?

Make sure you understand your treatment plan, any possible alternatives and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects).


Also known as:

Yeast Infection
Vaginal Infection - Office Visit
Vaginal Infection
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