The cause depends on the type of vaginitis you have.
Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina. Usually, "good" bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber "bad" bacteria (anaerobes) in your vagina. But if anaerobic bacteria become too numerous, they upset the balance, causing bacterial vaginosis. This type of vaginitis seems to be linked to sexual intercourse — especially if you have multiple sex partners or a new sex partner — but it also occurs in women who aren't sexually active.
A yeast infection occurs when there's an overgrowth of a fungal organism — usually C. albicans — in your vagina. Besides causing most vaginal yeast infections, C. albicans also causes infections in other moist areas of your body, such as in your mouth (thrush), skin folds and nail beds. The fungus can also cause diaper rash.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. In men, the organism usually infects the urinary tract, but often it causes no symptoms. In women, trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina, and usually it causes symptoms.
Vaginal sprays, douches, perfumed soaps, scented detergents and spermicidal products may cause an allergic reaction or irritate vulvar and vaginal tissues. Thinning of the vaginal lining — a result of decreased hormone levels following menopause or surgical removal of your ovaries — can also cause vaginal itching and burning.
Mar. 06, 2014
- Sobel J. Approach to women with symptoms of vaginitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR Recommendations and Reports. 2010;59:1. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5912a1.htm. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Lentz GM, et al. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Hainer BL, et al. Vaginitis: Diagnosis and treatment. American Family Physician. 2011;83:807.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vaginitis. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2006;107:1195.
- Vaginal yeast infections fact sheet. Office on Women's Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/vaginal-yeast-infections.cfm. Accessed Oct. 8, 2013.
- Condom fact sheet in brief. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/brief.html. Accessed Oct. 8, 2013.
- Sobel J. Trichomoniasis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 9, 2013.
- Marnach ML (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 1, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.