Inflammation of Vulva and Vagina – Everything on Vulvovaginitis A Woman Should Know

Inflammation of Vulva and Vagina – Everything on Vulvovaginitis A Woman Should Know

Are you the one who is facing irritation or itching in the vaginal area? Do you feel discomfort in urinating? Then you might be the candidate of a common infectious disease known as vulvovaginitis. Let’s go through vulvovaginitis in detail.

Vulvovaginitis

The condition refers to inflammation in the vulvar and vaginal area. Vulvovaginitis is a common condition and affects about one-third of women during their lifetime. It can affect women of all ages and most often during their reproductive phase of life. Vulvovaginitis is also known by other names such as vulvitis and vaginitis.

Causes of vulvovaginitis

The infection in the vagina or the vulvar regions can occur due to several triggers. The most common culprit among them is the bacteria.

Bacteria

The vaginal area is home to several bacteria including Gardnerella, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus. Multiplication of these bacteria can cause vulvovaginitis which can result in grayish white discharge with fishy odour.

Viruses

A virus can also cause vulvovaginitis and these are typically transmitted through sexual intercourse. The most common are herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Yeast

Too much growth of a fungus called Candida albicans can cause vulvovaginitis. This yeast infection is responsible for itching and thick white discharge that looks like cottage cheese. The infection typically occurs after taking antibiotic medication, which kills the antifungal bacteria living in the vagina. This causes yeast infection and a range of symptoms.

Parasites

Another cause of vulvovaginitis can be once-celled parasite known as trichomonas vaginalis. This is actually a sexually transmitted infection which can cause itching, heavy discharge and discomfort in the genitals. The discharge can be green yellow or gray and often with strong smell.

Other parasites such as pinworms, lice and scabies can also cause inflammation in the vulvar region.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are other causes of vulvovaginitis. These sexually transmitted infections occur when the vagina is affected by Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria.

Environmental factors

Often non-infectious things such as poor hygiene technique and tight clothing can cause inflammation. This causes irritation in the vaginal area and might also hinder recovery process.

Use of chemicals

Allergic reaction due to chemicals can cause vulvovaginitis. The chemicals can be from sprays, soaps, vaginal perfume and contraceptives. These chemicals include parabens, triclosan, sodium sulfate and dioxane.

Vulvovaginitis in children and preteens

Vulvovaginitis is a common gynecological condition in preteen girls. Experts believe the inflammation occurs due to changes in the hormone levels. However, at the beginning of puberty, the infections typically stop due to high acidic level of the vagina.

The children and prepubescent girls should be taught about proper bathroom hygiene. They should also be advised to wear loose-fitting cotton underwear.

Vulvovaginitis and pregnancy

The condition can be very annoying during pregnancy. Vulvovaginitis can occur due to hormonal changes during gestation. In severe cases, women with symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis have been linked to premature deliveries and low birth weight of the baby.

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Symptoms of vulvovaginitis

Since there could be several causes of vulvovaginitis, symptoms will also depend on the cause. Some common symptoms include:

Risk factors - Who gets vulvovaginitis?

Various factors can put a woman at the risk of vulvovaginitis. These include:

  • Being pregnant
  • Using birth control pills
  • Menopause
  • Use of medications such as steroids and antibiotics
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Using hygiene products
  • Use of spermicides or intrauterine device for birth control
  • Wearing tight fitting clothes

Diagnosis – What tests are recommended?

If you are regularly noticing changes in your discharge or having other symptoms, call your gynecologist without delay. She will be asking about your medical and sexual history as well as about the hygiene products you are using. Further, you could be thoroughly examined to figure out the reason of inflammation. You would be asked to undergo:

Pelvic examination – This test involves taking a sample of vaginal discharge to be evaluated under the microscope. This can reveal information about the microorganism which is causing the symptoms.

pH testing – The pH test checks the acidic level of the vagina. The doctor places a special stick or paper to the wall of the vagina. If pH level is high, it can indicate the presence of bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis.

Biopsy – This procedure can be an option in rare cases. The biopsy of the vulva can help determine the organism which is causing the inflammation. The doctor will take a small sample tissue of vulva for lab testing.

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Treatments of vulvovaginitis – Medication and home remedies

Again, the correct treatment will be based on the type of infection and symptoms. In mild cases, home remedies can work while in some other, doctor prescribed medication will do the job. 

Medications

  • Oral or topical antibiotics such as metronidazole, tinidazole and clindamycin
  • Over the counter anti-fungal creams such as clotrimazole, butoconazole and fluconazole
  • Estrogen creams or tablets
  • Oral antihistamines

Home remedies

Vulvovaginitis can be treated at home if the symptoms are mild. Where over the counter topical creams, oral pills and ointments are available, trying some home remedies first can do the trick. Here are some:

  • Applying cold compress for relieving pain or swelling.
  • Taking sitz bath which in other words means taking warm bath multiple times a day. Adding tea tree oil or small amount of vinegar may kill a good number of bacteria.
  • Applying coconut oil and garlic on the affected area. The antibacterial properties of these ingredients can improve symptoms.

Preventing vulvovaginitis

A woman suffering from vulvovaginitis might be able to keep off the infection from occurring by doing a few things:

  • Avoid tight clothes to prevent moisture
  • Wear loose fitting cotton underwear
  • Avoid using perfumed sprays or soaps
  • Wash the vulvar area gently after urinating or shower
  • Avoid douching or direct spray of water over the area
  • Use mild soaps to avoid irritation

Outlook

The good news is that vulvovaginitis can heal quickly if timely treated. However, you might want to consult your gynecologist if you don’t see any improvement in your symptoms within a week. If the cause of vulvovaginitis is sexually transmitted disease or virus, you must abstain from sex until you are fully recovered.