What Are Vaginitis and Vulvovaginitis?

Vaginitis and vulvovaginitis are very common conditions that affect many women each year. But do you know the difference between vaginitis and vulvovaginitis? Vaginitis describes the infection or inflammation of the vagina, while vulvovaginitis means the infection of the vagina and vulva. So the slight difference is that vulvovaginitis also affects the vulva, although the two words are often used interchangeably.

What Are vaginitis and Vulvovaginitis?

Vaginitis is an infection or inflammation of the vagina which can lead to pain, itching and discharge. There are numerous types of vaginitis, the most common being yeast infections (often caused by a naturally occurring fungus), bacterial vaginosis (caused by an excess amount of bacteria in the vagina), trichomoniasis (caused by a parasite, often transmitted sexually) and vaginal atrophy (caused by reduced levels of the hormone estrogen).

Vulvovaginitis is infections or inflammations of the vagina and vulva. Its causes and symptoms are very similar to that of vaginitis, and vulvovaginitis is often referred to as vaginitis, or vulvitis.

Symptoms of Vaginitis and Vulvovaginitis

The symptoms of vaginitis and vulvovaginitis are extremely similar. If you are experiencing discomfort, understanding the symptoms will help you find out how to get relief. Common signs and symptoms of vaginitis and vulvovaginitis include:

  • Itching or irritation in the vagina
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain during urination
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Change in odor, color and amount of vaginal discharge

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms for the first time, then it's important to consult your doctor. Your health care professional will help to diagnose the cause of these symptoms and begin treatment. If the symptoms persist, change or become more severe, you should visit your doctor.

How Are Vaginitis and Vulvovaginitis Treated?

If your condition worries you or affects your daily life, then you should take the following treatments to alleviate your condition.

Treating Vaginitis

The treatment for vaginitis depends on the type and cause of infection.

  • The most commonly prescribed medications are tropical antibiotics, antibacterial cream and/or antifungal cream.
  • Cortisone cream can also be applied to reduce irritation.
  • For women with low levels of estrogen, estrogen cream can be prescribed to boost levels of estrogen and combat vaginitis.
  • If you have ever had a vaginal yeast infection and are experiencing the same symptoms again, it is not imperative to visit your doctor as over the counter medicine should combat the infection effectively. Yeast infections can often be treated with antifungal OTC creams.
  • For bacterial vaginosis, antibiotics are often used.

If vaginitis remains untreated, further complications could arise. Some studies have even linked untreated vaginitis to increase susceptibility to the HIV virus. Untreated vaginitis in pregnant women can cause premature delivery and even infertility. Further complications include constant discomfort, and skin infections caused from the scratching of the infected area.

Treating Vulvovaginitis

Much like vaginitis, the treatment of vulvovaginitis depends on the cause and type of the infection. Although some forms of vulvovaginitis can be treated with OTC medicines, it is always advisable to seek advice from a doctor if it is the first time you experience symptoms of vulvovaginitis.

  • Once you have consulted your health care professional, they will be able to identify the cause and type of the condition and prescribe you with the correct medication, including cortisone cream, estrogen cream, antibiotic creams and/or oral antibiotics.
  • Besides, in order to treat vulvovaginitis, you should practice efficient personal hygiene, like wiping properly after lavatory use, wear looser fitting clothing, and sleep without wearing underwear to help air circulation. 
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