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So, you've noticed all the tell-tale signs of a yeast infection? You have white, thick, and creamy vaginal discharge, may be itchy, swollen, sore, and red, and could be experiencing some burning or discomfort while using the bathroom or having sex?

You may think you have the mystery solved, and run to the pharmacy for some over-the-counter antifungals — only to discover, to your horror, that your symptoms just won't go away. Or you may check in with your doctor for what you think is basically a pro-forma appointment, only to be told that you're not dealing with a yeast infection (this time). 

What walks like a yeast infection and quacks like a yeast infection — but isn't one? Vaginitis!

Vaginitis? What's That?

Anything ending in "itis" indicates the presence of an inflammation of some sort. Vaginitis is, as such, an inflammation of the vagina. (That doesn't mean your vulva doesn't come along for the ride.)

Vaginitis can be caused by numerous different things, including a course of antibiotics, a hormonal imbalance, sexual intercourse, douching, soap, perfumed hygiene products, and even spermicide.

Vaginitis can also be caused by an infection, and the usual suspects are:

  • Yeast infections — a very common cause of vaginitis, but as you've seen, not the only one. 
  • Trichomoniasis — a parasitic STD.
  • Bacterial vaginosis, an overgrowth of certain bacteria that do naturally occur within the vagina. 

How Do I Get The Right Diagnosis?

By going to the doctor and asking for swabs to be taken. The possibility that what you think is a yeast infection is actually another kind of vaginitis is the main reason you should see a doctor when you notice that itchy, burning feeling, even though antifungal medications are available without a prescription. 

It helps if you can take notes with information about when your symptoms started and under what circumstances they arose to your doctor. Tell your doctor when your symptoms are at their worst, and make sure to let them know if you took any antibiotics lately. Be open and honest about your sex life, as this will help your doctor come to the right conclusion. 

What Is The Treatment For Vaginitis?

That depends on what your vaginitis is caused by. 

If you have bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis, you will be given metronidazole, clindamycin, or tinidazole. If your vaginitis is caused by a hormonal imbalance resulting from the menopause, estrogen replacement therapy is the treatment. In this case, discuss the treatment with your doctor in detail, ask about the risks and benefits of its use, and follow the instructions provided by your pharmacist closely.

If your symptoms resulted from contact with an irritant, including soaps, tampons, or wearing the wrong kind of underwear, you'll have to go on a physical "elimination diet" to discover the source of your inflammation.

Switch to loose cotton underwear if you do not use it exclusively already, and avoid using vaginal douches at all cost for starters. You could try using a gentle, organic, laundry detergent. and try different brands of condoms, spermicides, and tampons, if you use any of those.

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