Yeast infections are one of the most common causes of vulvovaginitis in women.
- Yeast infections are most often due to the fungus Candida albicans.
- Candida and the many other germs that normally live in the vagina keep each other in balance. However, sometimes the number of Candida increases, leading to a yeast infection.
- Yeast infections typically cause genital itching, a thick white vaginal discharge, and other symptoms.
The vagina normally contains both healthy bacteria and unhealthy bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when more unhealthy bacteria than healthy bacteria grow. BV may cause a thin, grey vaginal discharge and a fishy odor.
A less common type of vaginitis is spread by sexual contact. It is called trichomonias. Symptoms in women include genital itching, vaginal odor, and a heavy vaginal discharge that may be yellow-grey or green in color.
Chemicals can cause itchy rashes in the genital area.
- Spermicides and vaginal sponges, which are over-the-counter birth control methods
- Feminine sprays and perfumes
- Bubble baths and soaps
Low estrogen levels in women after menopause can cause vaginal dryness and thinning of the skin of the vagina and vulva. These factors may lead to or worsen genital itching and burning.
Other causes include:
- Tight-fitting or nonabsorbent clothing, which leads to heat rashes
- Skin conditions
- Objects such as a lost tampon can also cause irritation, itching, and strong smelling discharge.
Sometimes the exact cause cannot be found. This is called nonspecific vulvovaginitis.
- It occurs in all age groups, but is most common in young girls before puberty, especially girls with poor genital hygiene.
- It causes a foul-smelling, brownish-green discharge and irritation of the labia and vaginal opening.
- This condition is often linked with excess growth of bacteria that are typically found in the stool. These bacteria are sometimes spread from the rectum to the vaginal area by wiping from back to front after using the bathroom.
Irritated tissue is more likely to become infected than healthy tissue. Many germs that cause infection thrive in a warm, damp, and dark environment, which can also lead to a longer recovery.
Sexual abuse should be considered in young girls with unusual infections and repeated episodes of unexplained vulvovaginitis.