Vaginal Health

Updated 23 June 2015

Causes of vaginal infections

There are a number of different vaginal infections, most of which are caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi.

It is important to know that, when referring to vaginal infections it does not only include bacterial and yeast infections (the two most common types), but also includes non-infectious causes. The following are the most common causes of vaginal infections:

1. Bacterial vaginosis

The low pH in the vagina is established by bacteria found naturally in the vagina called lactobacillus. When the growth of lactobacillus is disturbed, overgrowth of other bacteria can occur with the overgrowing bacteria causing infection. Symptoms include burning with urination and a thin, milky discharge with a fishy smell.

Read more about bacterial vaginosis

2. Candidiasis

Candidiasis, also known as a yeast infection or thrush is very common fungal infection. This infection presents with itching, a burning sensation, and a white, discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Anti-fungal medications are used to treat the infection. In severe cases bleeding is sometimes noted.

Read more about candidiasis

3. Trichomoniasis

A bacterial infection of the vagina usually transmitted through sexual contact. Symptoms include a foul-smelling discharge (green or yellow) with burning and itching.

Read more about trichomoniasis

4. Chlamydia vaginitis

A sexually transmitted infection, chlamydia does not become symptomatic straight away. Symptoms usually start two to three weeks after infection and include pain with urination, a foul smelling discharge, pain with sexual intercourse and even small amounts of bleeding.

Read more about chlamydia vaginitis

5. Viral vaginitis

Two major causes of viral vaginitis are HPV and herpes infection. With herpes infections, painful “sores” are found in and around the vagina. With HPV infections “warts” are presents which can be found inside and around the vagina and can even spread to the perineum and around the anus.

Both types of viral vaginitis can be sexually transmitted and precautions should be taken in the form of barrier contraception (like condoms) with appropriate medical treatment.

Read: Remedy your vaginal infection

6. Non-infectious vaginitis

As the name suggests, with this type of vaginitis there are no bacteria, viruses or fungi involved. Even though no apparent infective agent is present, women can still have a discharge and experience pain with urination. Non-infectious vaginitis is often caused by perfumes, soaps, detergents, spermicides and lubricants. 

Read more:

What are vaginal infections?

Diagnosing vaginal infections

Treating vaginal infections


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