CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
The cause depends on the type of vaginitis you have.
Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina. Usually, "good" bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber "bad" bacteria (anaerobes) in your vagina. But if anaerobic bacteria become too numerous, they upset the balance, causing bacterial vaginosis. This type of vaginitis can spread during sexual intercourse, but it also occurs in people who aren't sexually active. Women with new or multiple sex partners, as well as women who use an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control, have a higher risk of bacterial vaginosis.
Yeast infections occur when the normal environment of your vagina undergoes some change that triggers an overgrowth of a fungal organism — usually C. albicans. A yeast infection isn't considered a sexually transmitted infection. Besides causing most vaginal yeast infections, C. albicans also causes infections in other moist areas of your body, such as in your mouth (thrush), skin folds and nail beds. The fungus can also cause diaper rash.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3 out of 4 women will have a yeast infection at some time during their lives. Factors that increase your risk of yeast infections include:
- Medications, such as antibiotics and steroids
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy, birth control pills or menopause
Bubble baths, vaginal contraceptives, damp or tightfitting clothing, and feminine hygiene products, such as sprays and deodorants, don't cause yeast infections. However, these factors may increase your susceptibility to infection.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a microscopic, one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This organism spreads during sexual intercourse with someone who already has the infection. The organism usually infects the urinary tract in men, in whom it often causes no symptoms. Trichomoniasis typically infects the vagina in women.
Vaginal sprays, douches, perfumed soaps, scented detergents and spermicidal products may cause an allergic reaction or irritate vulvar and vaginal tissues. Thinning of the vaginal lining, a result of hormone loss following menopause or surgical removal of your ovaries, can also cause vaginal itching and burning.
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- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vaginitis. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2006;107:1195.