Vaginal Infections

Vaginal Infections

Vaginal infections, also known as vaginitis, are different conditions that may cause an infection or inflammation of the vagina. Vaginal infections are one of the most common reasons why women visit doctors. The reason may be attributed to an imbalance of bacteria, yeast, that is normally present in the vagina. An infection may also be caused by bacteria, yeast, or viruses in women.

In India, approximately 32% of women get bacterial vaginosis (type of vaginitis) but a high percent (30%) of them do not present with any symptoms. In other cases, common symptoms such as itching, a change in odour around the vaginal area, colour or amount of discharge, and pain during urination, may be present. It is important to consult the doctor in such cases for a right diagnosis and treatment.

What are the symptoms of Vaginal infections?

Normally, a woman’s vaginal discharge is clear or slightly cloudy. There is partly a process of the body itself keeping the vagina clean. Normal vaginal discharge is devoid of a smell, does not make the area itch, may vary in consistency (very thin or watery and sometimes thicker) based on the phases of menstrual cycle. When vaginal discharge presents with a noticeable odor, burns or itches, causes irritation, especially during nighttime and cause pain during sex, it is time of consult the doctor as any of the above might be a sign of vaginal infection.
Other symptoms might be –

  • Changes in the colour of vaginal discharge, thickness or smell
  • Noticeable itching, burning, swelling, or soreness around or outside of the vagina.
  • Burning sensation while peeing
  • Uncomfortable sex.

Sex may also aggravate the symptoms.

Types of Vaginitis:

Common types of vaginitis include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis: Occurs due to bacteria overgrowth and causes a strong fishy odour
  • Candida or “yeast” infection: Normally found in small amounts in the vagina, an overgrowth of a fungus called candida, causes yeast infection in the vagina
  • Viral vaginitis: Inflammation caused by a virus that may spread through sex (herpes simplex virus (HSV) or human papillomavirus (HPV))
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, parasitic infection like trichomoniasis causes vaginal infections.

The symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are not obvious, and both the partners should be tested regularly once vaginal infection is detected.

What are the causes of Vaginitis?

Apart from infection, vaginitis may be caused by the following:

  • Allergic reaction to or irritation from products such as detergents, fabric softeners, perfumed soaps, contraceptives like spermicides, vaginal sprays
  • Reduced acidity (increased pH) in the vagina may reduce the number of protective bacteria and increase the inflammation causing bacteria. The pH may be affected by menopause, semen, use of vaginal products, or infection.
  • Prolonged exposure to moisture in the vagina for a long time (not changing menstrual pads frequently enough), may encourage the growth of bacteria and yeast.
  • Tissue damage from pregnancy or childbirth, injury, surgery may weaken the immune system encouraging growth of bacteria.
  • Hormonal changes from menopause or surgery such as ovary removal may result in a dry vagina.

How is Vaginitis diagnosed?

The presence of more than one type of vaginal infection (bacterial or yeast, etc) makes the diagnosis tricky. A doctor’s evaluation includes assessing the difference in the symptoms and deciding for yeast infection, bacterial or both.

Testing and diagnosis include examination and testing of sample (discharge and/or fluid from the cervix)

How is Vaginitis treated?

  • Treatment of cause – If vaginitis is caused by infection, antibiotics or antifungals are prescribed depending on the type of infection. If symptoms due to an allergy, the responsible product should be identified, and the use should be avoided
  • Treatment of symptoms – Along with mainstay treatment, comfort measures to ease symptoms are suggested. These are:
    • Placing ice packs on the genital area, applying cool compresses, to reduce soreness and itching. Washing the genital area with lukewarm water with force (squeezed from a water bottle) may also relieve soreness and itching.
    • Medications such as antiallergy may given orally (tablet) to reduce itching.

Vaginitis Prevention

  • It is recommended to keep the vaginal area clean and dry. Vaginal sprays or heavily perfumed soaps are to be avoided. Douching (washing the vagina with mix of water and vinegar to remove odour) is not recommended as it may cause irritation, hide or the infection and also remove healthy, protective bacteria
  • Loose fitting, cotton clothes to be worn to avoid heat and moisture in the area. Nylon underwear and tight jeans may lead to yeast infections.
  • Practicing safe sex (using condoms) to avoid passing infections to partners.
  • Regular doctor or gynaecologist visit for early symptom detection.


  1. Bhalla P, Chawla R, Garg S, Singh MM, Raina U, Bhalla R, Sodhanit P. Prevalence of bacterial vaginosis among women in Delhi, India. Indian J Med Res. 2007 Feb;125(2):167-72.
  2. Oluwatosin Goje, MD. Overview of Vaginitis (Vaginal Infection or Inflammation). (November 2023). Merck Manuals Consumer Version.,-cervicitis,-and-pelvic-inflammatory-disease/overview-of-vaginitis-vaginal-infection-or-inflammation.
  3. Vaginal Infections (Vaginitis). Women’s Health Guide. (November 2023). WebMD.

Select your Location

Please select your nearest location from the list below