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Redness and swelling in the vaginal or vulva area could be signs of vaginitis. This common vulvar and vaginal inflammation affects girls and women of all ages.

Vaginitis symptoms include the following:

  • Itching and irritation in the genital area
  • Redness and swelling around the labia
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Fishy vaginal odor
  • Burning or discomfort while urinating

Other terms related to genital irritation include the following:

  • Cervicitis, which is caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or infection (STI)
  • Vulvitis, a term used to describe irritated of swelling in the vulva
  • Yeast infection

Vaginitis: what you should know

Causes of vaginitis

There are many possible causes of vaginitis. Below are just a few:

  • Chemicals found in soaps, perfumes and bubble baths
  • STDs or sexually transmitted infections
  • Yeast
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Low estrogen levels (which occurs after menopause)

Preventing vaginitis

You can prevent vaginitis by doing the following:

  • Use condoms when having sex
  • Avoid bubble baths, douches, body washes and scented, dyed or antibacterial soaps
  • Wear cotton underwear

How can I get help for vaginitis?

If you’ve had a yeast infection before and symptoms seem similar, you may try an over-the-counter medication for yeast infections. Call your primary care doctor or OB-GYN in these instances:

  • Your symptoms persist for more than a week following yeast infection treatment or recur more than three times per year
  • You’ve never had a yeast infection and have vaginitis symptoms

Care for people with vaginitis at Rush

Your doctor will first want to diagnose your condition and figure out the source of the inflammation. To do this, your doctor may do one or all of the following:

  • Conduct a pelvic exam to evaluate red, tender areas around the vulva or vagina.
  • Evaluate a sample of vaginal discharge under a microscope to see if there’s an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria.
  • Perform a test or culture on the vaginal fluid to identify what organism is causing the problem.
  • Perform a biopsy of the irritated area if other tests show no signs of infection.

Vaginitis is not hard to treat, but the exact approach depends on what’s causing the problem. Here are some examples of treatment:

  • Behavioral changes, e.g., taking underwear off before bedtime, not wearing pantyhose, avoiding products with certain chemicals
  • Antibiotic pills or creams to treat bacterial infections
  • Antifungal or creams to treat yeast infections

Why choose Rush for vaginitis care

  • Primary care doctors and OB-GYNs at Rush diagnose and treat vaginitis. These doctors are closely connected to specialists at Rush.
  • Rush has a program for abdominal and pelvic health problems that can address the full spectrum of issues related to the pelvic area, such as vaginitis. The program has a coordinator who will help you navigate the multiple specialists you might need to see to find relief.

Departments and programs that treat this condition