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Vaginitis means inflammation (soreness and swelling) of the vagina.

Many women with vaginitis also get abnormal vaginal discharge, itching or burning in the vagina, and discomfort during sex or when urinating. A strong, unpleasant smell, particularly after sexual intercourse can also be sign.

Some women with vaginitis may experience few symptoms, or none at all.

This page lists the possible causes of vaginitis, linking out to more detailed information on these conditions. This guide should not be used to self-diagnose your condition, but should give you an idea of what is causing your vaginitis.

See your doctor if you suspect the cause of your sore vagina is an infection. You can read our information on abnormal vaginal discharge to find out if you have a vaginal infection, and if so, what this is likely to be.

What causes vaginitis?

Vaginitis may be caused by any of the following infections or irritants:

  • thrush, a fungal infection that commonly affects the vagina
  • bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection of the vagina
  • trichomoniasis – a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite
  • chemical irritation, for example from perfumed bubble bath, soap or fabric conditioner, or from spermicide (a chemical that kills sperm, sometimes found on condoms)
  • washing inside your vagina
  • chlamydia – an STI caused by bacteria
  • genital herpes – an STI caused by the herpes simplex virus

You can click on the above links to learn more about these conditions.

How to treat vaginitis

Treatment for vaginitis depends on the underlying cause.

Fungal infections are likely to be treated with antifungal medications and bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.