Vaginitis, also called vulvovaginitis or vulvitis, is an umbrella term that refers to the irritation and inflammation of the vagina and vulva. While a doctor should always diagnose the exact cause of vaginitis, in some cases it can be treated with home remedies.
Read on for advice on how to treat vaginitis at home, as well as an understanding of what causes it, and tips to prevent vaginitis from recurring.
What is Vaginitis?
Vaginitis is a broad term that covers the various symptoms associated with irritated, infected, or inflamed female genitals. Causes of vaginitis include conditions like Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), Yeast Infections, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs), as well as lifestyle factors, skin reactions, pelvic injuries, or hormonal fluctuations.
As reported by healthcare practitioners, vaginitis is one of the most common gynecological complaints in America, and regularly affects the labia, clitoris, bladder, and vaginal openings, as well as the vagina itself.
Common symptoms include vaginal discharge with a foul odor, itching, redness, swelling, and a burning sensation when urinating.
More severe symptoms like cracking skin or blisters on the vulva are also known to occur, in addition to scaly white patches of skin and slight vaginal bleeding or spotting.
What Conditions Cause Vaginitis?
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
One of the most common causes of vaginitis, occurs when the natural balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina is altered and a bacteria known as Gardnerella Vaginalis is overproduced which in turn encourages an infection to flourish.
Symptoms include vaginal and vulvar itching, an unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge, redness, swelling, as well as pain during urination and sex.
Yeast Infections are the result of an overgrowth of a fungus called candida. Although always naturally present in the vagina, the overgrowth of candida occurs due to the presence of unfriendly bacteria.
This imbalance of microflora in the vagina is the perfect breeding ground for an infection to thrive, which ultimately results in vaginitis and symptoms very similar to BV.
While the symptoms may be similar, however, treatment is different. It is for this reason that it’s important to ensure what the cause of your vaginitis is, before considering any home treatments.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
These are also a common cause of vaginitis with trichomoniasis, genital herpes, gonorrhea, genital warts, and chlamydia topping the list.
STIs result in similar vaginitis symptoms to BV and Yeast infections, such as irritation in the form of itching and swelling, vaginal discharge, and pain while urinating, in addition to uncomfortable sores on the vulva or vaginal opening.
Other Causes of Vaginitis
Additional causes of vaginitis involve the following:
- Skin reactions to certain soaps, detergents, condoms, tampons, or lubrication.
- Lifestyle choices like wearing damp workout clothes for too long, forgetting about tampons during menstruation, not practicing safe sex, wearing pants that are too tight, or smoking.
- Hormonal changes such as decreased estrogen levels after menopause or a hysterectomy, as well as pregnancy and hormonal alterations due to birth control.
- Skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.
- Parasites such as pubic lice or scabies.
- Vulvar cancer, although very rare, is known to manifest with similar symptoms to vaginitis in addition to physical sores, lumps, or ulcers on the vulva.
Home Remedies for Vaginitis
If it’s your first time experiencing vaginitis it's important to speak with your healthcare practitioner to determine the exact cause before considering home treatments. BV and STIs, for example, typically require a course of antibiotics to treat the underlying infection.
As soon as you understand the cause of your vaginitis, and whether or not you have been prescribed antibiotics to treat it, there are some additional tips and helpful ways to soothe the symptoms and treat vaginitis at home.
A Cold Compress
Apply a cold compress to the vulva, or an ice pack that is wrapped in a clean towel to avoid ice burn. The cold treatment helps to reduce swelling and soothe irritation.
Remove any tight clothing and avoid wearing thongs or synthetic underwear until symptoms disappear. Tight clothing creates a warm and moist environment where infections can continue to thrive. Allowing air to circulate by wearing loose clothing and breathable cotton underwear will help to relieve symptoms faster.
When dry or flaky skin from a skin condition like eczema or dermatitis is the cause of your vaginitis, the National Eczema Association recommends taking regular baths with natural oils. Soaking in a bath for 10-15 minutes with unscented, dye-free oil can help to soothe itching and naturally moisturize dry skin. Ensure to pat your skin dry afterward instead of rubbing.
Naturally-Made Vaginal Moisturizer
Apply an unscented, organically made moisturizer to soothe the skin and improve irritating vaginitis symptoms. This Enchanted Rose Natural Vaginal Moisturizer, from Intimate Rose, is specially designed to ease vulvar itching. It’s also great to treat dry or thinning skin during menopause, as well as to rejuvenate the vagina post-pregnancy and after intercourse.
Soaking in a warm bath always helps to ease the tension that can come with vaginitis, and adding a quarter cup of baking soda helps to relieve the incessant itching. Alternatively, make a paste with baking soda and a few drops of water and apply it directly to the parts of the vulva that are irritated.
You can also add 2.5 milliliters of baking soda to 1 liter of water and use it to wash the vulva regularly, gently patting it dry afterward with a clean towel.
Boric Acid Suppositories
Used for centuries by the ancient Greeks as a natural antiseptic and antimicrobial, boric acid is a natural remedy for treating conditions that result in vaginitis like BV, yeast infections, and trichomoniasis.
It is recommended in suppository form and can be taken in conjunction with antibiotics. It is also successful in preventing recurring vaginitis when taken on an ongoing.
These Boric Balance Suppositories (including applicators) from Intimate Rose come highly recommended by customers.
Studies have proven that certain strains of probiotics known as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus Reuteri are specifically known to adhere to the vaginal wall, prevent harmful bacteria from growing, and maintain vaginal health.
In one study, a group of women who were given probiotics as well as antibiotics to treat Bacterial Vaginosis over 30 days, saw cure rates close to 90 percent. Whereas those who received only antibiotics recorded a cure rate closer to 40 percent.
A daily probiotic supplement, like Flora Bloom Probiotics for Women from Intimate Rose, not only helps in treating vaginitis but also greatly lowers the risk of it recurring.
Helpful Tips to Prevent Vaginitis from Recurring
- Avoid using scented soaps, lotions, or sprays on your genital area.
- Refrain from douching.
- Use condoms during intercourse with new partners.
- Switch from synthetic underwear to the more breathable cotton.
- Change out of wet swimwear or damp gym wear as soon as possible.
- Wipe from back to front.
- Urinate and wash genitals after intercourse.
- Never put essential oils or any type of ‘medicinal food’ in your vagina.
There are plenty of helpful ways to treat vaginitis at home, including oil baths, boric acid supplements, cold compresses, baking soda, and specialized moisturizers to soothe irritation. However, it is also important to have the root cause of your vaginitis diagnosed in case medicinal treatment is required for an underlying infection.
As a rule of thumb, if your vaginitis symptoms persist more than two weeks after treating it at home, make an appointment with your healthcare practitioner to diagnose the cause and prescribe treatment.
Cleveland Clinic – Vulvitis - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15175-vulvitis
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Bacterial Vaginosis https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/bv.htm
Mayo Clinic – Vaginal Yeast Infection - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20379004
Urology Care Foundation – Sexually Transmitted Infections - https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/s/sexually-transmitted-infections
Office of Women’s Health – Menopause & Relief - https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-symptoms-and-relief
National Eczema Association – Eczema & Bathing - https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/bathing/
National Center for Biotechnology Information – Clinicians' use of Intravaginal Boric Acid Maintenance Therapy for Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis and Bacterial Vaginosis -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6878170/
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Treating vaginitis with probiotics in non-pregnant females - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32855726/