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Vaginitis and Vaginosis

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Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms associated with vaginitis/vaginosis may be vague and non-specific, involving general itching, pain, burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina. Depending on the cause, some distinctive signs and symptoms may be present and include one or more of the following:

  • Bacterial infection (vaginosis)—a vaginal discharge that is thin, grey, or milky with an unpleasant fishy smell (due to chemicals called amines that increase the pH in the vagina) that is especially noticeable after sexual intercourse. The affected person may or may not have itching and irritation. A significant number of women may have bacterial vaginosis without having noticeable symptoms.
  • Yeast infection (candidiasis)—a vaginal discharge that can be thick and white like cottage cheese, along with itching, burning, burning with urination, redness and swelling, and painful sexual intercourse.
  • Trichomoniasis—a yellowish-greenish vaginal discharge that may be "frothy" and is unpleasant smelling, itching, redness, painful sexual intercourse, and painful urination. Small red sores may be visible on the walls of the vagina or cervix during a pelvic exam. However, many women with trichomoniasis have no noticeable symptoms.
  • Atrophic vaginitis—this condition, occurring in some women entering or in menopause, is defined as a thinning of the walls of the vagina. The women affected may have vaginal dryness, itching, and/or burning, pain during sexual intercourse, and a small amount of bleeding after sexual intercourse.

Rarely, the causes of vaginitis/vaginosis may lead to complications such as inflammation of the cervix or lining of the uterus or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In a woman who is pregnant, vaginosis can sometimes cause premature labor and, in some cases, can lead to the transmission of an infection from a mother to her newborn. Women who have a vitamin D deficiency and are pregnant may be more susceptible to bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis has also been associated with miscarriages in the second trimester of pregnancy.

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