Vulvovaginitis is a condition that affects women of all ages. Even young girls can get this condition, and it’s a form of vaginal inflammation or infection. You may have also heard of this condition being called vulvitis or vaginitis. Vaginitis and vulvovaginitis are simply interchangeable names.
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What Is Vaginitis?
When a female has a swollen or inflamed vagina, or an infection has set in, it may be caused by this condition. There are multiple reasons that this may occur, so you will need to determine if you have vaginitis or another condition that may cause similar symptoms. Your gynecologist will be the best resource for you at this time if you’re uncertain whether you have vulvovaginitis.
What Causes Vulvovaginitis?
There are several triggers, or causes, thatcan cause you to suffer from this condition. These causes include:
- Environmental Factors
And each of these conditions are a little bit different. Let’s take a look at each of these causes, and why they cause vulvovaginitis.
It’s possible that a new undergarment, fragrance, soap, or other hygiene products may cause you to have an allergic reaction. This reaction can result in your vagina becoming swollen or irritated.
There are certain types of bacteria that can cause this condition. When bacteria has caused this condition, you may notice a whitish discharge that has a rather fishy smell coming from your vagina. It should be noted that only half of women that have a bacteria-related cause suffer from this symptom.
- Environmental Factors
Your environment plays a major role in your overall hygiene. Poor hygiene or allergens can cause this condition as well as wearing clothing that rubs against the skin.
Chemical irritants can cause your vagina to become irritated and inflamed. There are several different chemicals that may cause this, and it could be something as simple as soap or a bubble bath, perfume, or a feminine spray.
Parasites causes can cause inflammation, and include:
- STDs / Viruses
Many sexually-transmitted diseases and viruses can cause this condition. The herpes simplex and human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause this condition.
Candidal vulvovaginitis is essentially a yeast infection. You’ll notice that your vagina will be itchy, and a white discharge will occur. Antibiotics would need to be prescribed to kill the bacteria, but this can lead to increased future infections because the antifungal bacteria will also be destroyed.
Vulvovaginitis does not just occur in adult women. It’s not uncommon for prepubescent girls to have this condition. While the cause may be unknown, it is believed that there is a lack of acidity in the vagina present. This acidity is typically what will stop infections from occurring, so a female that has not reached puberty may suffer from this condition.
Common Vaginitis Symptoms
The symptoms that are associated with this condition vary widely depending on what the main cause of the condition is. Aside from swelling and inflammation, you may or may not experience the following:
- Itching – Many women will experience genital itching.
- Inflammation – The most common symptom. Women will normally notice inflammation around the labia or perineal regions.
- Smell – A strong smell may be coming from the vagina. The smell may resemble cheese, or it may be a fishy smell. This depends on whether or not the condition is caused by an STD, bacteria or other reason.
- Discharge – Many women will experience discharge. The discharge may be yellow, grayish white or simply thick white.
- Pain – Rarely, women will experience pain when they urinate.
A woman may experience one, or a combination of the above symptoms. In some cases, a woman won’t experience any symptoms aside from inflammation. That’s why it’s often difficult to determine the cause of this condition because inflammation can be caused by sex, irritants, underwear rubbing against the skin, or dozens of other reasons.
You cannot with 100% certainty self-diagnose this condition. A doctor will need to examine you and provide you with a professional diagnosis. The doctor will likely:
- Ask you questions.
- Take a vaginal discharge test.
- Take blood (possibly).
Blood is not always needed, but doctors may ask you for a blood sample if they believe that you have a sexually transmitted disease. This will likely be to rule out an STD, but not every doctor will ask for a blood sample.
A pelvic examination will likely take place, and the vaginal discharge that occurs will likely be evaluated. The goal of evaluating the discharge is to determine the organism that is causing you to have this condition. It’s very important for this sample to be taken so that your doctor can prescribe a treatment method that will be successful.
In very rare cases, a biopsy of the vulva may be needed.
Vaginitis Treatment Options
Treatment of this condition will be dependent on the type of infection or organism that is causing your problem. For example, if you have an allergic reaction to a new soap, the issue may go away by simply changing your feminine products.
But if you have HPV, you will need to have this treated appropriately.
Vaginal staph infection may need several rounds of antibiotics, or more intense treatments to correct the issue. There are some cases when you can treat vulvovaginitis on your own, but it is very important to discuss your condition with your doctor first. It is very important that you have a concrete diagnosis to ensure that you do not have an infection or other serious disease that may be causing your issues.
Typically, your doctor will prescribe medications, including:
- Antibiotic creams.
- Antifungal creams.
- Estrogen creams.
- Antifungal is pills.
- Oral antibiotics.
If your personal hygiene routine is causing the issue, you will need to correct this. It’s not uncommon for a doctor to recommend a personal hygiene routine that will help correct your issue because it can be an environmental issue just as it is a bacterial one.
Self-treatment options include:
- Anti-histamine creams that are often sold over-the-counter.
- Wearing loose clothing or cotton underwear if rubbing is causing inflammation.
- Avoiding perfumes, soaps, washing powders and bubble baths with fragrances that can cause irritation.
- Bathing in a sitz bath.
- Cold compresses will be able to help relieve pain and swelling in these tender areas.
It’s important to note that you will need to see a doctor before using any over-the-counter creams or medications. Why? The underlying issue may be more than just vulvovaginitis.
Women that suffer with this condition will be happy to know that the outlook is very good. In most cases, you will be undergoing treatment for less than a week before you have to return to your doctor. If there are no signs of improvement after a week, it’s important to return to your doctor and have another evaluation done.
In most cases, this is a condition that will help quickly once the irritant or underlying cause is treated.
No long-term side effects are experienced, and women who suffer from infections may be able to use over-the-counter treatments to stop this condition. It’s not uncommon for vulvovaginitis to reoccur, especially if it is caused by yeast.