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Symptoms of Vaginitis

In many women with vaginitis, symptoms include itching and burning in or around the vagina. Another common symptom is an abnormal discharge that may have an unpleasant odor. While some type of vaginal discharge is normal for all women, anything that seems abnormal is an indication to see a doctor. Some women have no symptoms at all; therefore, regular gynecological exams are important.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Vaginitis

The most common symptoms of vaginitis are:
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Vaginal discharge that is different from your normal secretions.
The itching and burning can be inside the vagina or on the skin or vulva just outside the vagina. Discomfort during urination or sexual intercourse may also occur. If all women with vaginitis had these symptoms, then the diagnosis would be fairly simple. However, it is important to realize that as many as 4 out of every 10 women with this condition may not have these typical vaginitis symptoms -- or any symptoms at all.
Frequently, a routine gynecologic exam will confirm vaginitis even if no symptoms are present. This is one reason why it is important to have a gynecologic exam at least every 2 years.

Comparing Vaginal Discharges

A woman's vagina normally produces a discharge that is usually described as clear or slightly cloudy, non-irritating, and odor-free. During the normal menstrual cycle, the amount and consistency of the discharge vary. At one time of the month, there may be a small amount of a thin or watery discharge. At another time, a more extensive and thicker discharge may appear. All of these descriptions are considered normal.
A vaginal discharge that has an odor or that is irritating is usually an abnormal discharge. The irritation might be itching or burning or both. The burning can feel like a bladder infection. The itching may be present at any time of the day, but it is often most bothersome at night. Both of these symptoms are usually made worse by sexual intercourse. It is important to see a doctor or clinician if there has been a change in the amount, appearance, or smell of the discharge.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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