Vaginitis is soreness and swelling in and around the vagina. It's common and usually treatable.
Check if you have vaginitis
Symptoms of vaginitis include:
- an itchy or sore vagina
- vaginal discharge that's a different colour, smell or thickness to usual
- vaginal dryness
- pain when peeing or having sex
- light vaginal bleeding or spotting
- sore, swollen or cracked skin around your vagina
You might not have all these symptoms.
Causes of vaginitis
Vaginitis has lots of possible causes.
Your symptoms might give you an idea what's causing it. But do not self diagnose, get medical help if you're worried.
White and lumpy discharge (like cottage cheese), itching and soreness
Yellow, green or smelly discharge, pain when peeing or having sex
A sexually transmitted infection like trichomoniasis or chlamydia
A dry, itchy vagina and pain when having sex
Hormone changes from the menopause, breastfeeding or some types of contraception
Itchy, sore patches around your vagina and on other parts of your body
A skin condition like eczema or lichen planus
Vaginitis can also be caused by irritation (for example, from soap), an injury to your vagina or something in your vagina (like a tampon).
Non-urgent advice: See a GP or go to a sexual health clinic if:
- you have symptoms of vaginitis for the first time
- you've had vaginitis before, but the symptoms are bothering you a lot, are different to usual or are not getting better
- you have vaginal discharge that's unusual for you
- you have symptoms of vaginitis after having sex with a new partner
- you have other symptoms like feeling hot and shivery or pain in your lower tummy (pelvic pain)
Do not have sex until you've seen a doctor or nurse. You could have a sexually transmitted infection.
Sexual health clinics can help with vaginitis
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment. They'll often get test results quicker than GP surgeries.
What happens at your appointment
To find out what's causing your vaginitis, a doctor or nurse may:
- ask about any sexual partners you have
- look at the skin around your vagina
- look inside your vagina (pelvic examination)
Having a pelvic examination
- You'll be asked to remove your underwear and lie on your back.
- The doctor or nurse will gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (speculum) into your vagina to hold it open so they can see inside.
- A small cotton bud (swab) may be wiped inside your vagina to check for infections.
You can ask the doctor or nurse to stop at any point if you find it too uncomfortable.
Treatments for vaginitis from a doctor
Treatment for vaginitis depends on the cause.
For example, you may need:
- antifungal medicine for thrush
- antibiotics for a sexually transmitted infection
- vaginal moisturiser, lubricant or hormone treatment for menopause symptoms
- steroid medicine for a skin condition
Things you can do to help vaginitis
There are things you can do to ease symptoms of vaginitis and reduce your chances of getting it again.
wash around your vagina with water and dry thoroughly
wear loose, cotton underwear
use pads instead of tampons when you're on your period
use condoms and lubrication when having sex
do not clean inside your vagina (douching)
do not have hot baths
do not use scented hygiene products in or around your vagina, such as soaps and deodorants
Page last reviewed: 27 February 2023
Next review due: 27 February 2026