Vulvovaginitis is a common inflammation of the vagina and the vulva, caused by bacteria, fungus or, less commonly, parasites. It affects almost every woman at least once in life. It is supposed to go away after treatment, but it some cases it persists or comes back frequently, which is called chronic vulvovaginitis.
Symptoms and causes of vulvovaginitis
Vulvovaginitis with bacterial causes is usually related to overgrowth of bacteria such as Gardnerella vaginitis, Mycoplasma hominis and Mubiluncus. Candida albicans is the most common fungal cause of vulvovaginitis. It is believed that bacterial infection of the vagina is slightly more common than the fungal one, even though three out of four women suffer from candidiasis at least once in their lifetime.
Infectios agents cause the vagina and the vulva to become inflamed, swollen, irritated and itchy. Itching can be particularly intense. Even though there is always some amount of vaginal discharge, especially at certain points of the menstrual cycle, the discharge related to vulvovaginitis is more intense, sometimes with foul odor. Discharge can be white, yellowish or even greenish.
Other symptoms associated with vulvovaginitis include pain during sexual intercourse, pain while urinating and sometimes abdominal pains resembling menstrual cramps.
Vulvovaginitis may become chronic or recurrent due to certain factors. This means that the inflammation is present if not constantly, then frequently, several times a year or even several times a month. This particularly applies on candidal vulvovaginitis. Chronic candidal vulvovaginitis may be associated with diabetes mellitus, the use of oral contraceptives, frequent use of antibiotics, tight-fitting underwear and certain immunodeficiencies.
Treatment of vulvovaginitis
Before proceeding with treatment, it is necessary to find out what exactly caused it. If the symptoms listed above present and persist for more than a day or two, it is recommended to see a gynecologist who will perform the pelvic exam and probably take a vaginal swab. The swab will be taken to the laboratory where it will be established which microorganisms are responsible for the inflammation and/or infection.
Bacterial vulvovaginitis must be treated with antibiotics, which can be oral, topical or the combination of both.
Candidal vulvovaginitis is treated with anti-fungal medication, in form of creams, ointments or vaginal tablets. Since fungal infections can be quite persistent, it is necessary to follow through with the treatment. In fact, chronic vulvovaginitis is often caused by interrupting the treatment before it is complete. This happens a lot because many times the symptoms go away a day or two after the treatment is started.