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Vulvovaginitis: Know everything about vaginal inflammation

Vulvovaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina. Here's everything you need to know about vulvovaginitis, including its causes and prevention.
Vaginal inflammation
Vaginal inflammation can be painful and uncomfortable. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Shruti Bhattacharya Published: 3 Jun 2024, 18:15 pm IST
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The vagina is delicate and vulnerable to problems such as irritation or infection. One of the most common problems that many women experience at least once in their lives is vaginal inflammation, also known in medical terms as vaginitis or vulvovaginitis. It can be painful, and lead to discharge, pain and itching. Vaginitis can also affect the external genital area, known as the vulva. Typical symptoms include burning, itching, unusual discharge, and bad odour. However, incorporating some prevention tips can benefit, if you are suffering from vulvovaginitis.

What is vulvovaginitis?

“Vulvovaginitis is a swelling or irritation of the vulva (the external part) and vagina (the birth canal). This condition can result from various causes, including infections, irritants, allergies, or hormonal changes. It affects women of all ages but is particularly common among young girls and women of reproductive age,” says gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Pratibha Singhal. An infection with bacteria, yeast, or viruses can cause these conditions. In some circumstances, vaginitis is transmitted during sexual intercourse. Other reasons may include vaginal dryness and a lack of oestrogen.

woman with a vaginal infection
Vulvovaginitis is the inflammation of the vagina. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

What are the causes of vulvovaginitis?

1. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a frequent vaginal infection caused by an imbalance in the natural bacterial flora of the vagina. In BV, the amount of Lactobacilli drops, and there is an excess of other types of bacteria, such as Gardnerella vaginalis and different anaerobes, according to a 2023 study published in the StatsPearl Journal. This is one of the most common causes of vulvovaginitis.

2. Candida vulvovaginitis

Candida vulvovaginitis, often known as vaginal yeast infection, is caused by an increase of Candida (a kind of yeast) in the vagina, as found in a 2024 study published in the StatsPearl Journal. This leads to genital irritation and a thick, white vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese consistency.

3. Chemical irritants

Vulvovaginitis can be caused by certain chemicals, which are commonly found in soaps, feminine sprays, perfume, and vaginal contraception, says the expert.

4. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Vulvovaginitis may result from STI trichomonas vaginitis, as per a 2022 study published in the StatsPearl Journal. This infection can lead to vaginal discomfort, itching, and excessive discharge. The discharge could be yellow, green, or grey. It usually has a strong odour. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and herpes can all cause vaginitis.

5. Environmental factors

“Poor hygiene and allergies can also contribute to this condition. Tight clothing can press against the skin, causing irritation and retaining moisture. Irritated skin is more prone to vulvovaginitis than healthy skin. Irritation might also cause a delay in healing, says the expert.

Symptoms of vulvovaginitis

Here are some of the common symptoms of vulvovaginitis, as explained by the expert.

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Vaginal discharge has unusual colour, consistency, or smell.
-Itching and irritation around the vulva and vagina.
-Redness and swelling of the vulva.
-Pain or burning sensation during urination or intercourse.
-Spotting or light bleeding between periods.

How to prevent vulvovaginitis?

Preventing vulvovaginitis involves maintaining good hygiene, avoiding irritants, and adopting healthy lifestyle practices. Here are some tips and natural remedies to help prevent vulvovaginitis.

1. Maintain proper hygiene

“Gently clean your private parts with warm water and a light, unscented soap. Avoid using harsh soaps or douches, as they can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and yeast. Also, always wipe from front to back after using the toilet to prevent bacteria from the anus from entering the vagina, recommends the expert.

2. Probiotics

Probiotics assist the body in producing healthy bacteria capable of combating the germs responsible for the stimulation of bacteria. According to a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environment and Public Health, probiotic therapy may have both short and long-term effects in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis, which is one of the common causes of the condition.

3. Wear appropriate clothing

“Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Cotton allows for better air circulation, reducing moisture build-up, which can promote bacterial and yeast growth. Also, change out of wet swimsuits or sweaty workout clothes as soon as possible to prevent prolonged moisture exposure,” suggests the expert.

Also Read: What to avoid to prevent a vaginal infection from getting worse

vaginal boils
Wear proper clothing to keep vaginal infections at bay! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

4. Cranberry juice

Cranberry juice is known for its potential ability to prevent and manage UTIs, as found in a 2021 study published in the Food Frontiers Journal. It also helps to reduce the risk of vulvovaginitis. Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice is a popular remedy for UTIs and vaginitis. If you do not want to consume unsweetened juice, you can take cranberry juice pills instead.

5. Avoid irritants

“Avoid using scented tampons, pads, toilet paper, and feminine sprays. These can irritate the sensitive vaginal area. Also, if you use panty liners, choose unscented ones and change them frequently to keep the area dry,” explains the expert.

Things to keep in mind!

These prevention approaches and natural remedies may help with vulvovaginitis, but they are not a substitute for medical care. If you have vaginitis, you should see a doctor to determine the cause and get the necessary treatment.

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About the Author

Shruti Bhattacharya is a content writer and editor for over 2 years. She specialises in writing on a variety of topics such as wellness, lifestyle, beauty, technology and fashion. Her current focus is on creating factually correct and informative stories for readers. ...Read More

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