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Find out about the symptoms, causes and treatment of vaginitis.

Vaginitis means soreness and swelling (inflammation) of the vagina, which means only people with a vagina can get it. It is not a sexually transmitted infection but sex or foreplay can trigger it and so can some sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Signs and symptoms of vaginitis

Not everyone with vaginitis will experience all or any of these symptoms but symptoms of vaginitis can include:

  • A discharge that is not normal for you
  • Irritation or itching
  • Light bleeding or spotting
  • Pain when you wee
  • Pain during sex
  • A strong, unpleasant smell after sex may also be a sign

Causes of vaginitis

Vaginitis may be caused by STIs such as:

It may also be caused by:

  • Thrush
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Chemicals in shower gels, soap, fabric softener or from spermicide
  • Washing inside your vagina (douching)

Testing for vaginitis

Vaginitis can be diagnosed by describing your symptoms to your GP or a health professional. You should get advice if you haven’t had a vaginal infection before or if your symptoms are different to previous times. You should also get advice if you have a new sexual partner.

Please be aware that you can be tested and treated for vaginitis at your nearest GP surgery or at GUM or sexual health clinics. Brook services do not offer testing or treatment for vaginitis but if we think you may have vaginitis, we will always do our best to advise you on where you can go for further help.

Treatment of vaginitis

Because vaginitis is often a side-effect of other conditions, treatment depends on what is causing it. For example, bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics and fungal infections such as thrush are usually treated with antifungal medicines.

Things you can do to help

  • Keep your genital area clean and dry.
  • Use pads rather than tampons if you’re on your period during the infection.
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear.
  • If you tend to experience vaginitis after sex, trying using a lubricant.


  • Having hot baths.
  • Using perfumed soaps.
  • Washing inside your vagina (sometimes called douching) as this can remove the healthy bacteria your vagina needs to stay free from infection.
  • Using any feminine hygiene products (sprays, deodorants and powders).
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