Vaginal health is an important part of your overall health. But, it is also an uncomfortable topic for many women to talk about. Unfortunately, because we keep most things regarding our vaginas on the hush-hush, many common problems tend to get swept under the rug. However, not to worry, because we’ve got you covered! We’re here to bring some of these not-so-comfortable conversations front and center so you can ensure everything down there is in tip-top shape. In this piece, we’re going to discuss a common vaginal quandary known as vaginitis. Keep reading to learn exactly what it is and what you can do about it.
What Is Vaginitis?
To learn what vaginitis is, let’s first take a close look at the word: vag-in-itis. It’s pretty safe to assume that the “vag” part stands for vagina. And the suffix “itis” refers to inflammation. So when we put both of them together, we get an inflamed vagina. Now, I know the image of that probably isn’t pleasant. After all, none of us wants to visualize our vaginas on fire, and fortunately, that’s not exactly what’s happening here.
What does occur with vaginitis is the inflammation of the sensitive skin on your vagina. As you might imagine, this condition can cause countless problems. Some women may notice that their vaginitis starts off with itching. For some, this itching can be very severe and impact your quality of life.
But, itching is not the only challenging symptom that comes with vaginitis. Some women also report significant pain. This pain most frequently occurs during sex or when using the bathroom. Another common symptom that you may experience if you have vaginitis is lots of discharge that is accompanied by an unpleasant odor. Sometimes, in addition to the discharge, you may also experience some light spotting or bleeding.
Not All Vaginitis Is Created Equally…
Many people don’t know this, but vaginitis is actually an umbrella term that covers a wide range of vaginal inflammation. We’ll touch on the different types of vaginitis below so you can know what to expect if you think you have it. It’s important to know these things because the symptoms you have can determine which type of vaginitis you have. Once you know exactly what type of vaginitis you’re dealing with, then you’ll know how to deal with the symptoms.
Type 1: Bacterial Vaginosis
One common type of vaginitis is bacterial vaginosis. This happens when there aren’t enough healthy bacteria available to fight off the bad bacteria. In short, it’s basically a war going on inside of your vagina, and it’s more common in sexually active women. Often, women are quicker to notice this type of vaginitis because you’ll suddenly have lots of discharge, and the discharge may have a strange or strong smell.
Type 2: Yeast Infection
Another common type of vaginitis is a vaginal yeast infection. This happens when there is too much yeast (a fungus) in the vagina. Yeast infections often happen after you have finished a round of antibiotics. If you didn’t know, antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria throughout your body, so you might get rid of one problem, but get another!
Type 3: Trichomoniasis
A third common type of vaginitis is trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is a parasite, and this parasite is spread via sexual activity. If you have multiple sexual partners or a new sexual partner, make sure to ask your health care provider to test you for trichomoniasis.
And Other Triggers
The causes mentioned above are not the only types of vaginitis that may impact you. For example, some women may be allergic to different household items, such as their shampoos or soaps. These allergic reactions could trigger an inflammatory response and a range of vaginitis symptoms.
Other women may experience vaginitis during menopause as hormone levels in the body change. For example, a dip in estrogen levels could be behind this, leading the walls of the vagina to sort of shrivel up and then swell.
So, What Are My Treatment Options?
The treatment options for your vaginitis diagnosis will depend on many factors, including the type of vaginitis you are diagnosed with.
If you are diagnosed with a yeast infection, for example, your doctor may give you an anti-fungal cream to use. Alternatively, she may recommend that you take Diflucan, a systemic pill. On the other hand, if a culture reveals that you have bacterial vaginosis, then the best treatment is likely to be an antibiotic, such as Flagyl. There are also antibiotic creams that can be effective.
For trichomoniasis, Flagyl is also a potential treatment option. On the other hand, if your vaginitis is because of vaginal atrophy related to menopause, then estrogen replacement creams may be a great way to replace missing lubricants and reduce inflammation in the vaginal walls.
Why Me?: Risk Factors Revealed
Many women end up asking the question, “why me?,” after being diagnosed with vaginitis. And, there is not necessarily a good answer to this question. Various factors may make you more likely to experience this spectrum of conditions.
These factors include the following:
- Age: as you age and approach menopause, your risk of hormone-driven vaginitis rises.
- Number of sexual partners: more sexual partners may make you more prone to certain types of vaginitis, such as trichomoniasis.
- Your lifestyle: certain lifestyle and hygiene choices can increase your risk of vaginitis. For example, taking baths instead of showers or regularly using the hot tub may up your risk. Not properly cleaning after going to the bathroom or wiping from back to front may also raise your risks. To help stay clean down under, be sure to check out Lily Bird’s hypoallergenic and pH-balanced cleansing cloths.
But, sometimes, there is simply not a reason behind the vaginitis diagnosis. Even in these cases, though, the more you know, the better decisions you can make about your vaginal health.
If you’ve read this far, that means you have a pretty good understanding of what vaginitis is and what you can do about it. As you can see, practically any woman can get vaginitis, and most women will probably experience it at least once. After all, you’re at risk if you have sex, work out, take a bath, and get older. In other words, you’re not alone if it happens to you, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed. At least now you know what to look for so you can maintain good vaginal health.
Help keep the lady downstairs happy and healthy by keeping her clean. Lily Bird offers gentle wipes made with aloe and chamomile to help clean up whether at home or on-the-go. Get yours here.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH