Go to Content Go to Navigation Go to Navigation Go to Site Search Homepage

What is vaginitis?  

Vaginitis is an irritation of your vagina or vulva. It’s super common and usually easy to treat. Almost everyone with a vulva gets vaginitis at some point.

Think you may have a yeast infection or vaginitis? Find A Health Center →

What causes vaginitis?

Vaginitis is when your vulva or vagina becomes inflamed or irritated. This can happen when there’s a change in the normal chemical balance of your vagina, or if you have a reaction to irritating products.

Many things can cause vaginitis — and sometimes there’s more than 1 cause. Things that lead to vaginitis include:

  • Common vaginal infections like:

    • vaginal yeast infections

    • bacterial vaginosis

    • trichomoniasis

  • Lack of Estrogen (atrophic vaginitis):
    Lack of estrogen can lead to a type of vaginitis called atrophic vaginitis (also known as vaginal atrophy). Atrophic vaginitis is when you have irritation but no abnormal discharge. Things that can cause low estrogen include:

    • Breastfeeding

    • Menopause

    • Damage to your ovaries, or having your ovaries removed

  • Vaginal Sex
    Vaginitis isn’t a sexually transmitted infection. But sometimes sexual activity can lead to vaginitis. Your partner’s natural genital chemistry can change the balance of yeast and bacteria in your vagina. In rare cases, you can have an allergic reaction to your partner’s semen. Friction from sex, or certain types of lubricants, condoms, and sex toys may also cause irritation. Read more about vaginitis and sex.

  • Allergies and Irritants
    Allergic reactions or sensitivity to different products, materials, or activities can also cause vaginitis. Things that can lead to irritation include:

    • douching

    • vaginal deodorants, washes, and perfumed "feminine hygiene" products

    • scented panty liners, pads, or tampons

    • perfumed bath products

    • scented or colored toilet paper

    • some chemicals in laundry detergents and fabric softeners

    • certain types of lubricants (i.e. flavored or with sugars in them)

    • sex toys made out of certain materials

    • latex and rubber in sex toys and condoms (if you have a latex allergy)

    • spermicide

    • tight pants, or underwear/pantyhose that don’t have a cotton crotch

    • wearing wet bathing suits or damp clothing for long periods of time

    • hot tubs or swimming pools

Everyone’s body is different, so things that lead to irritation in some people don’t cause problems for others. Read more about keeping your vagina healthy.

  • Recurrent Vaginitis
    Some people get vaginitis a lot. If you have vaginitis 4 or more times in a year, it’s called recurrent vaginitis. You can get recurrent vaginitis if you have conditions like diabetes or HIV that make your immune system weak. You can also get recurrent vaginitis if you don't finish your vaginitis treatment.

What are vaginitis symptoms?

The signs of vaginitis can vary depending on what’s causing it. But vaginitis symptoms usually include:

  • Your vagina and/or vulva is red, irritated, swollen, or uncomfortable.

  • Itching, burning, and pain in your vulva or vagina.

  • Pain or discomfort during sex.

  • Feeling like you have to pee more often than usual. Peeing may sting if your vulva is really irritated.

  • Vaginal discharge that isn’t normal for you:

    • With yeast infections, discharge is usually thick, white, and odorless. You may also have a white coating in and around your vagina.

    • With bacterial vaginosis, you may have vaginal discharge that’s grayish, foamy, and smells fishy. (But it’s also common for BV to have no symptoms.)

    • With trich, discharge is often frothy, yellow-green, smells bad, and may have spots of blood in it.  

Vaginitis symptoms can be super obvious, or barely noticeable. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. It's a good idea to pay attention to what your vulva and vaginal discharge normally looks, feels, and smells like, so it’s easier to notice any changes that could be signs of vaginitis or other infections.

Was this information helpful?
You’re the best! Thanks for your feedback.
Thanks for your feedback.