Infection in Which the Vagina and the Vulva Become Inflamed

What is Vaginitis?

Vaginitis is an infection in which the vagina and the vulva become inflamed. There are several different types of vaginitis - trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, or vaginal yeast infections.

The most common type of vaginitis is bacterial vaginosis (BV). This happens when there is a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. Another type of vaginitis is trichomoniasis. This form of infection is caused by a parasite. Lastly, yeast infections or candidiasis can happen when too much candida or yeast grows in the vagina.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is a gynecologic condition that is related to alterations in the normal vaginal flora and is the most common cause of vaginitis among reproductive-age women.   Racial and socioeconomic disparities also exist, with higher rates of bacterial vaginosis in women of color, lower socioeconomic status, and lower education level.

Information on the prevalence of BV is limited since bacterial vaginosis is not reportable.  If you follow the links below you will get important treatment information from institutions that are recognized for their scientific accuracy. To learn more about bacterial vaginosis click here


Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite called Trichomonas Vaginalis.  It spreads from person to person during sex. Many people do not have any symptoms. If you do get symptoms, they usually happen within 5 to 28 days after being infected. To learn more about Trichomoniasis click here

What are the Vaginitis symptoms?

Symptoms of vaginitis depend on the type of vaginitis you have. However, vaginitis is characterized by itching, pain, and inflammation in the vaginal area.

Bacterial vaginosis symptoms include:

  • White or gray vaginal discharge
  • Foul-smelling vaginal area 
  • Burning during urination

Trichomoniasis symptoms include:

  • White, yellow, gray, or green frothy vaginal discharge with a foul odor
  • Vaginal spotting and bleeding
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain during intercourse

Yeast infection symptoms include:

  • Vaginal pain and swelling
  • Thick, white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal rash
  • Pain during urination


Vaginitis treatment

Vaginitis treatment varies depending on the type of vaginitis a woman has. Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics in either a pill, gel, or cream form. During treatment, sex should be avoided or a condom should be used.

A single dose of antibiotics is sufficient treatment for trichomoniasis. Both a woman and her partner(s) should be treated as they both have been exposed to the parasite causing the infection. Finally, yeast infections are treated with an over-the-counter (O-T-C) cream that contains miconazole or clotrimazole. Treatment for yeast infections can last between one and seven days.

Vaginitis Common Questions

BV can increase the risk of acquiring certain diseases and conditions, including:

  • Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases from an infected partner
  • Infections following certain types of surgery, such as hysterectomy, abortion, and caesarean delivery
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease

If a woman is infected with HIV and has BV, there is an increased risk of passing HIV/AIDS to her partner and possibly to her child if she is pregnant.

There are several misconceptions about the ways in which a woman can develop BV, including that she can get it by:

  • Sitting on a toilet seat
  • Touching and/or laying on bedding
  • Swimming in a swimming pool

There is no evidence that any of these actions contributes to or causes a woman to develop BV.

Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STI. In the United States, an estimated 3.7 million people have the infection. However, only about 30% develop any symptoms of trichomoniasis. Infection is more common in women than in men. Older women are more likely than younger women to have been infected with trichomoniasis.

About 70% of infected people do not have any symptoms. When trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation.

Men with trichomoniasis may notice:

  • Itching or irritation inside the penis;
  • Burning after urination or ejaculation;
  • Discharge from the penis. Women with trichomoniasis may notice:
  • Itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals;
  • Discomfort with urination;
  • A change in their vaginal discharge (i.e., thin discharge or increased volume) that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish with an unusual fishy smell.

Having trichomoniasis can make it feel unpleasant to have sex. Without treatment, the infection can last for months or even years.

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