What is vaginitis?
Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that is most often associated with irritation of the vulva, and is therefore called vulvovaginitis.
It can be an irritation of the vagina or a vaginal infection due to a fungus, bacteria, virus or parasite.
It is estimated that almost all women suffer from vaginitis at least once in their lives, but it can also occur in little girls.
What causes vaginitis?
About 2 out of 3 times vaginitis is infectious:
In 50% of cases it is a vaginal mycosis which is due to a fungus, mostly candida albicans. Mycosis is therefore often of intestinal origin, or occurs following the use of antibiotics, estrogen-progesterone, pregnancy, diabetes, anemia, etc.
It can also be a vaginitis caused by parasites (Trichomas, ...: often transmitted by water, toiletries and during sexual intercourse)
Bacteria (especially Gardnerella, but also chlamydia, gonococcus, ...)
Or viruses (genital herpes, ...)
It should be noted that genital herpes, trichomonas vaginitis, chlamydia, mycoplasma, gonococcus, etc., are sexually transmitted infections (STI) during sexual intercourse.
However, vaginitis is not always of infectious origin, it can be due to irritation of the vaginal mucosa following the use of certain products not adapted to intimate hygiene, lubricating gel as well as a lack of lubrication during sexual intercourse, the use of certain means of contraception, or following the repeated use of antimycotic products. Tampons can also cause vaginal discomfort. As well as if you are menopausal because the menopause often leads to vaginal dryness due to the reduction of hormonal secretions.
Vulvitis can be caused by wearing synthetic or wet underwear for too long, tight pants that make unpleasant rubbing, sanitary napkins that tend to dry out the mucous membranes and irritate them, unlike organic cotton menstrual panties. Excessive hygiene or the use of products not adapted for the vulva can be responsible for vulvar sensitivity. Finally, if you suffer from eczema, psoriasis or lichen, you may also be more prone to vaginitis, as well as if you are menopausal as mentioned above.
What are the symptoms of vaginitis?
Vaginitis often manifests itself as:
Itching, burning sensations in the vulva and vagina,
Vaginal discharge that has an unusual texture/smell/color/quantity: often whitish, thick and slimy if there is a fungus, fluid, copious, foul-smelling and gray or yellow if there is a bacterium. Finally, foamy and greenish if it is a parasite. However, this does not happen if the vaginitis is not infectious,
Pain during sexual intercourse,
Pain when urinating or difficulty urinating,
Swollen, red and painful outer labia, and sometimes blisters
How is vaginitis diagnosed?
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, we recommend that you see a health professional, whether it be your doctor, your gynecologist or your midwife, especially if you suffer from fever and abdominal pain at the same time.
Indeed, vaginitis can evolve into an infection that develops on other organs such as the uterus or the fallopian tubes and this is a gynecological emergency. Bacterial vaginitis with chlamydia and gonorrhea, if not properly treated, can lead to peritonitis (an inflammation of the peritoneum) and infertility.
The health care professional will first examine the vulva and may also observe the vagina with a speculum, or collect vaginal secretions to identify the germ that caused the infection.
What treatments are available for vaginitis?
Treatment depends on the type of infectious vaginitis involved. Most of the time, this is done with antimycotics or local antibacterial agents to be applied externally with a cream, or internally with one or more gynecological ovules. Oral medications can also be prescribed depending on the case: antifungals in case of recurrent candidiasis, antiherpetics in case of genital herpes, antibiotics adapted to the germs responsible for vaginitis.
In some cases (he or she has symptoms), the sexual partner should also be examined and treated, because some infections can be transmitted during sexual intercourse.
If it is an irritation, it is advisable to remove any type of product that may contain allergens (shower gel/soap, condoms, anti-fungal products, intimate wipes, etc.) and to apply vegetable oil such as sweet almond, jojoba, evening primrose, coconut to moisturize and reduce local discomfort.
How to prevent vaginitis?
If you often suffer from vaginitis, we advise you to
Avoid wearing synthetic underwear because it increases perspiration and maceration, which is conducive to the development of germs and promotes vaginal mycosis. Prefer cotton
Do not stay too long in a wet bathing suit
Change your clothes after sport
Avoid frequent intimate hygiene and the use of unsuitable products containing perfumes (only one vulval cleansing per day): the pH of the vagina is not the same as that of the skin. Soap should be applied to the areas where there is or was hair, not more!
When using the toilet, wipe from front to back and not the other way around
Do not shower internally because the vagina cleans itself
Dry the vulva well after washing
- Apply vegetable oil to the vulva if necessary, after each cleaning.
Avoid the use of tampons and pads and prefer to use organic cotton menstrual panties, and if you have no choice, change them as often as possible
Avoid using antibiotics which tend to modify the vaginal flora and contribute to the appearance of fungus. If you must use these treatments, remember to take probiotics to replenish the vaginal flora.
Wear a condom as much as possible during sex to avoid transmission of STIs. You can also have regular screenings
- If infections are frequent, prefer oral treatment. Do not hesitate to ask for a vaginal swab before starting treatment. This sample can be taken as a self-sample.
To learn more about vaginitis, but also about perineal and vulvar pain, you can visit the website of the association Perinee Bien-Aimé, as well as its Instagram account @perinee_bienaime.