Vaginal Itching and Soreness, What Could It Be?

When women visit a Vulva Doctor to find out what is behind these issues, they are often given a diagnosis of Vaginitis. This common condition can be described as: an inflammation of the vagina that can result in pain, itching, soreness, and discharge. It is normally brought on by:

• An infection
• A disruption in the balance of vaginal bacteria
• Reduced levels of oestrogen (post-menopause), and
• Various skin disorders [1]

There are a number of types of vaginitis. The most common forms comprise:

• Bacterial Vaginosis: this is due to an overgrowth of the bacteria which naturally resides in the vagina. When there is too much, then the natural balance is disrupted
• Yeast Infections: in the majority of cases, these infections are generated by Candida albicans (a naturally occurring fungus)
• Trichomoniasis: this is brought about by a parasite, and is often passed on via sexual activity [1]
When you book an online or in-person appointment with a Vulva Specialist, after they have reviewed your medical history, asked you various pertinent questions, and arranged any necessary tests, they will then devise a Personalised Treatment Plan according to the type of vaginitis that you are suffering from.

Did You Know?

“Women with trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis are at a greater risk of getting sexually transmitted infections because of the inflammation caused by these disorders” [1]

So What Vaginitis Symptoms Should I Look Out For?

These include:
• A change in the level of discharge coming from your vagina
• An abnormal odour emanating from your vagina
• A variation in the colour of the discharge coming from your vagina
• Vaginal irritation or itching
• Light vaginal spotting or bleeding
• Painful urination
• Experiencing pain during sexual foreplay/sexual intercourse [1]

Keeping a ‘Symptom Diary,’ is highly recommended – that way you can show it to your Pain Doctor, when you have your first online or in-person appointment. Divide the diary into daily pages, and note down any symptoms, along with what you were doing at the time they came on (e.g., having sex).

Looking For Clues as to the Type of Vaginitis You Have

• Bacterial Vaginosis: you may develop a foul-smelling, greyish-white coloured, discharge. (Note: the odour, which frequently smells fishy, could be more apparent after you have had sexual intercourse/foreplay)
• Yeast infection: the key symptom here, is itching. However, you may also experience a thick white discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese
• Trichomoniasis: pronounced trik-o-moe-NIE-uh-sis, this condition can generate a sometimes frothy, greenish-yellow, discharge [1]

What Vaginitis Risk Factors Should I Be Aware Of?

Factors that raise the risk of developing vaginitis, comprise:
• Hormonal changes such as those linked: with menopause, birth control pills, or pregnancy
• Having a STI (sexually transmitted infection)
• Sexual activity
• Pharmaceuticals including steroids and antibiotics
• Using birth control spermicide
• Uncontrolled diabetes
• Applying hygiene products including: vaginal deodorant, vaginal spray, and bubble bath
• Douching
• Wearing clothes which are tight fitting or damp
• Using a birth control IUD (intrauterine device) [1]

When Should I See a Vulva Specialist?

• When you feel any form of vaginal discomfort
• If you experience itching, discharge, or a particularly unpleasant vaginal odour
• If you’ve had a recent new partner, or multiple sex partners. – This is because you could potentially have a STI (some of which have similar symptoms to bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection)
• If your symptoms persist after you have completed a course of over-the-counter anti-yeast medication
• You are experiencing pelvic pain, chills, or a fever [1]


[1]. Mayo Clinic (2024). “Vaginitis.”