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Vaginitis refers to any infection or inflammation of the vagina. It can result from an infection caused by organisms, such as bacteria, yeast, or viruses. However, the chemicals found in perfumed soaps, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners can also cause the condition. Itching is one of the most common symptoms, and most women will have at least one form of vaginitis in their lifetime.

What Is Vaginitis?

Vaginitis is a word used to describe disorders that cause infection or inflammation ("itis" means inflammation) of the vagina. Vulvovaginitis refers to inflammation of both the vagina and vulva (the external female genitals).
These conditions can result from an infection caused by organisms such as bacteria, yeast, or viruses. Other causes can include irritation from chemicals in creams, sprays, or even clothes that are in contact with this area. In some cases, vaginitis results from organisms that are passed between sexual partners.
The symptoms are common, and most women will have at least one form of vaginitis in their lifetime. Even though the condition is common, however, many women know little about it. The term "yeast infection" is what most women think of when they hear the word vaginitis. However, a yeast infection is only one kind of vaginal infection.

What Causes It?

Vaginitis can be caused by several different organisms, sometimes at the same time, as well as by hormonal changes, allergies, or irritations.
The six most common causes of vaginitis are:
Because there are so many causes, it is important to see your doctor or other healthcare professional if you think you have a vaginal infection so that the cause can be identified and the correct treatment can be prescribed.
Vaginitis can sometimes be a sign of other health problems. Knowing more about the signs and symptoms of this common condition will help you and your healthcare provider make a proper diagnosis.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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