Women's Health

What is Vulvovaginitis?

What is Vulvovaginitis?

Key Takeaways

  • An infection in the vagina, as well as the vulva region, can occur as a result of many factors.
  • Candida albicans is one of the major factors that lead to vulvovaginitis.
  • Depending on what leads to the vulvovaginitis, the symptoms of the infection may vary.

Vulvovaginitis, which is also known as vulvitis or vaginitis, is an infection that causes inflammation in the vulva as well as the vagina. It usually affects females irrespective of their ages. Various factors lead to the disease. 

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30 percent of females get bacterial vulvovaginitis in their lifetimes. Yeast infections are more common than vulvovaginitis, and they affect about three out of four females in their lifetimes. 

 

Causes of vulvovaginitis

An infection in the vagina, as well as in the vulva region, can occur as a result of many factors. Bacteria are the most prominent trigger. Vulvovaginitis can also be caused by yeast, viruses, parasites, environmental factors, sexually transmitted diseases, exposure to substances that lead to allergies, and chemical irritants.

Bacteria: The multiplication of specific bacteria such as streptococcus, gardnerella as well as staphylococcus can lead to vulvovaginitis. An infection caused by bacteria can result in grayish-white discharge with a fish-like odor. 

Yeast: Candida albicans is one of the major factors that lead to vulvovaginitis. The yeast infection can make the genitals itch and can cause a thick, white, cottage-cheese-like vaginal discharge. A yeast infection usually occurs as a result of antibiotics use. Antibiotic drugs potentially kill the vaginal bacteria that fight against fungi, possibly leading to yeast infections.

Viruses: Viruses that possibly cause vulvovaginitis are usually transmitted through sexual intercourse. These viruses comprise of herpes and human papillomavirus.

Parasites: The vagina and vulva can become inflamed as a result of the presence of pinworms, scabies as well as lice.

Environmental causes: Lack of proper hygiene and the presence of substances that lead to allergies can lead to this infection. If you wear tight clothes, you can have irritation on your skin when the clothes rub against you. The irritation causes increased vulnerability of the skin and vulvovaginitis development. An irritated skin area also leads to a prolonged recovery period from vulvovaginitis. 

Sexually transmitted diseases: Trichomonas vaginitis, a sexually transmitted disease, is another cause of vulvovaginitis. This leads to discomfort in the genitals, itch as well as a thick discharge (yellow, green, or gray in color) with an intense strong odor. Vaginitis can also occur as a result of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or herpes.

Chemical irritants: Some chemicals in products such as soaps, female sprays, deodorants and contraceptives administered through the vagina can cause vulvovaginitis. Allergies are commonly caused by chemicals such as parabens, sodium sulfate, triclosan and dioxane.

 

Vulvovaginitis in kids

Vulvovaginitis is the most prominent condition that affects the female reproductive systems of girls who haven’t attained the adolescence age as a result of low levels of estrogen.

During the initial adolescence period, the acidity in the vagina increases usually leading to the end of the infections. Before a girl with the infection attains puberty age, bathing on a daily basis, use of steroid drugs as well as low-dose of topical antibiotic drugs can be used to prevent the infection. Putting on cotton underwear that isn’t tight is also important in preventing the recurrence of the infection. Once girls go through puberty, getting their period helps to fight infections. 

 

Symptoms of vulvovaginitis

Depending on what leads to the vulvovaginitis, the symptoms of the infection may vary. A person with the infection may experience the following:

  • The genital area becomes irritated
  • Itchiness
  • The labia and perennial regions become inflamed 
  • High vaginal discharge with a strong odor
  • Discomfort when passing urine

 

Vulvovaginitis diagnosis

The doctor will seek to know more about your symptoms and may test a sample of your vaginal discharge. Pelvic assessment is usually done. When the doctor establishes the cause of your inflammation, the treatment becomes fast and effective.

Although it’s rare, a vulva biopsy may be important to establish the cause of the inflammation in certain cases. The procedure is only required in case the traditional methods aren’t effective or if there are doubtful areas.

 

Vulvovaginitis treatment

Vulvovaginitis treatments vary depending on the infection type and the respective causes of the infection. You can treat some vulvovaginitis by yourself. Nevertheless, seek a doctor’s advice before starting any treatment.

 

Home-based treatments

Over-the-counter products such as vaginal creams, suppositories, topical creams, and oral tablets can be used to treat vulvovaginitis if you previously had a yeast infection. Home solutions such as crushed garlic as well as coconut oil are effective home remedies.

Seek direction on the best products for treating your infection and how to use it. Talk to your physician if you have used the home remedies for one week and your condition isn’t improving.

Sitting in a sitz bath is also another way of relieving some vulvovaginitis symptoms. You can add tea tree oil or a small quantity of vinegar to the bath to kill the possibly present bacteria. Sit in the bath for just a short period of time. After the bath, dry the infected region completely using a towel. 

 

Prescribed drugs

Some of the medications that your doctor may prescribe after establishing the cause of vulvovaginitis include:

  • Oral antibiotic drugs
  • Antibiotic topical skin creams
  • Anti-fungal topical skin creams
  • Antibacterial topical skin creams
  • Oral antihistamines, if an allergy is suspected 
  • Estrogen creams
  • Oral anti-fungal tablets

 

Sexual well-being

It is paramount to inform your sexual partners if a sexually transmitted infection leads to your vulvovaginitis. Regardless of whether they are currently experiencing the infection’s symptoms or not, all your sexual partners should seek vulvovaginitis treatment. 

 

Vulvovaginitis outlook

You will recover fast from vulvovaginitis if you get proper treatment. If you don’t get better after a week of treatment, see your doctor again. Other treatment options may be more successful than your current medication. 

Infections caused by yeast and those caused by bacteria are not transmitted through sex. Because of this, if yeast or bacteria lead to your vulvovaginitis, abstinence from sex isn’t necessary. Nevertheless, if you have a sexually transmitted infection or virus, you should only engage in sexual intercourse with your partner after completing your medication course, without experiencing the infection’s symptoms anymore.

If your vulvovaginitis is caused by yeast, it may occur again and if that happens, use over-the-counter products to treat the infection.

 

Vulvovaginitis prevention

People with vaginitis should maintain cleanliness in their genital regions and keep the areas dry. Some tips for preventing and treating vulvovaginitis include:

  • Don’t use soap to clean the area. Instead, just rinse using water.
  • Sitting in a sitz bath is also another way of relieving some vulvovaginitis symptoms. Dry yourself completely after the bath.
  • Don’t douche. Although a majority of women think they will be cleaner after douching, this may destroy the healthy bacterial lining on the vagina which fights against infections. The vulvovaginitis symptoms may become worse in the absence of the healthy bacteria.

Other hints include:

  • Stop exposing your genital region to hygiene sprays, perfumes, and powders.
  • If you have an infection, substitute tampons with pads instead.
  • Diabetic people should control their blood sugar properly.

Let adequate air flow around your genital region by:

  • Wearing clothes which fit you loosely and avoid putting on pantyhose.
  • Putting on cotton underwear or underwear whose crotches have cotton linings.
  • Removing underwear during the night while going to sleep.

Females should also:

  • Be familiar with proper cleaning of their genital regions when taking a bath or shower.
  • Wipe them well after using the toilet by starting from the vagina towards the anus.
  • Wash them thoroughly before as well as after using the washroom.

Having safe sex and the using condoms will help in preventing and transmitting infections as well.