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Women's Healths


Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Vaginitis is any vaginal infection, inflammation, or irritation that causes a change in normal vaginal discharge. General symptoms include a change in the amount, colour, odour, or texture of vaginal discharge; itching; painful urination; and pain during sexual intercourse. Common types of vaginitis include yeast infection (See Yeast Infections), bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite spread through sexual contact (See Trichomoniasis). Some other sexually spread diseases can cause unusual vaginal discharge or vaginal irritation. See Sexually Transmitted Diseases. In addition, irritation caused by douching frequently, wearing tight clothing, or using strong soaps, perfumed

feminine hygiene products, or spermicides may contribute to vaginal irritation or infection.

If you have burning and pain when you urinate and feel the need to urinate often, see Urinary Tract Infections on See Urinary Tract Infections.

Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis often include a thin, grayish white, fishy-smelling vaginal discharge. The odour is often worse after sex. Bacterial vaginosis is commonly associated with having multiple sex partners, using an intrauterine device (IUD) or diaphragm, exposure to a sexually transmitted disease (STD), or frequent douching, but it may occur in women who don't have these risk factors.

Symptoms of trichomoniasis may include a large amount of frothy, foamy, white, yellow, green, or gray vaginal discharge; vaginal redness, irritation, and swelling; and vaginal odour.


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  • Limit the number of your sex partners and use condoms during sexual intercourse. Having multiple sex partners may increase your risk for vaginitis by changing the normal environment of your vagina.

  • If you think frequent vaginal infections may be related to use of a diaphragm or IUD, spermicidal foams or jellies, or condoms, discuss other birth control options with your health professional.

  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet. This will help you avoid spreading bacteria from your anus to your vagina.

  • Wash your vaginal area once a day with plain water or a mild, nonperfumed soap. Rinse well and dry thoroughly. Avoid douching unless your health professional instructs you to do so.

  • Avoid the use of feminine deodorant sprays and other perfumed products. They irritate and dry tender skin.

  • During your period, change tampons at least 3 times a day, or alternate tampons with pads. Remember to remove the last tampon used during your period.

  • Antibiotic medications can kill the healthy bacteria that grow in your vagina. If you are taking an anti-biotic, drink acidophilus milk or eat yogurt that contains live Lactobacillus cultures to help prevent vaginitis.

  • Avoid pantyhose and tight nylon underwear, which limit air circulation to your vaginal area.

Home Treatment

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A vaginal infection may clear up without treatment in 3 or 4 days. If your symptoms do not improve, call your doctor.

  • Avoid sexual intercourse to give irritated vaginal tissues time to heal.

  • Do not scratch. Relieve itching with a cold water compress or cool baths.

  • Make sure the cause of vaginitis is not a forgotten tampon or another foreign object.

  • Do not douche unless your health professional instructs you to do so.

  • Wear loose-fitting, cotton clothing; avoid nylon and synthetics.

  • If you think you may be pregnant, do a home pregnancy test. See Home Pregnancy Tests.

  • If itching is the most bothersome symptom, try a nonprescription vaginal cream or suppositories for yeast infections. See Yeast Infections on See Yeast Infections.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If you have pelvic or lower abdominal pain, fever, and unusual vaginal discharge.

  • If you have pain or bleeding after sexual intercourse (and the pain is not eased by using a vaginal lubricant such as Astroglide).

  • If you have an unusual or foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

  • If you have vaginal itching that does not go away after you use a nonprescription medication for yeast infections.

  • If you think you've been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease (See Sexually Transmitted Diseases). Your sex partner may need to be treated too.

  • If you plan to see a health professional, do not douche, use vaginal creams, or have sexual intercourse for 48 hours before your appointment. Doing these things may make your problem more difficult to diagnose.

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