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, with links to more detailed information about 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 GP 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.

Causes of vaginitis

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

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

Treating vaginitis

Treatment for vaginitis depends on the underlying cause.

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

Cleaning your vagina

The vagina is self-cleansing, so there is no need to wash inside it (called douching). Douching can upset the natural balance of bacteria and fungi in your vagina and lead to thrush or bacterial vaginosis.

Vaginal soreness and abnormal vaginal discharge can also be caused by overusing perfumed soaps, bubble baths and shower gels. Never clean your vagina with anything strongly perfumed. Use a mild soap and warm water to gently wash around your genitals.

Page last reviewed: 06/02/2013

Next review due: 06/02/2015