Vaginitis: Care Instructions

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Female pelvic organs


Vaginitis is soreness or infection of the vagina. This common problem can cause itching and burning. And it can cause a change in vaginal discharge. Sometimes it can cause pain during sex. Vaginitis may be caused by bacteria, yeast, or other germs. Some infections that cause it are caught from a sexual partner. Bath products, spermicides, and douches can irritate the vagina too.

This problem can also happen during and after menopause. A drop in estrogen levels during this time can cause dryness, soreness, and pain during sex.

Your doctor can give you medicine to treat vaginitis. And home care may help you feel better. For certain types of infections, your sex partner(s) must be treated too.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Ask your doctor if your sex partner(s) also needs treatment.
  • Do not eat or drink anything that has alcohol if you are taking metronidazole (Flagyl).
  • Wash your vulva daily with water. You also can use a mild, unscented soap if you want.
  • Do not use scented bath products. And do not use vaginal sprays or douches.
  • Change out of wet or damp clothes as soon as possible. Wear cotton underwear. And avoid tight clothing that could increase moisture.
  • Put a washcloth soaked in cool water on the area to relieve itching. Or you can take cool baths.
  • If you have dryness because of menopause, use estrogen cream or pills that your doctor prescribes.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is okay to have sex.
  • Use a personal lubricant before sex if you have dryness. Examples are Astroglide, K-Y Jelly, and Wet Lubricant Gel.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have new or increased pain in your vagina or pelvis.
  • You have new or worse vaginal itching or discharge.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have bleeding other than your period.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.