Vagina, sore and swollen

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

Vaginitis means inflammation (soreness and swelling) of the vagina.

Many women with vaginitis also get abnormal vaginal discharge, itching or burning in the vagina, and discomfort during sex or when urinating.

This page lists the possible causes of vaginitis, linking out to more detailed information on these conditions. This guide should not be used to self-diagnose your condition, but should give you an idea of what is causing your vaginitis.

See your GP if you suspect the cause of your sore vagina is an infection. You can read our information on abnormal vaginal dischargeto find out if you have a vaginal infection, and if so, what this is likely to be.

Causes of vaginitis

Vaginitis may be caused by any of the following infections or irritants:


  • thrush, a fungal infection that commonly affects the vagina
  • bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection of the vagina
  • trichomoniasis - a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite
  • chemical irritation, for example from perfumed bubble bath, soap or fabric conditioner, or from spermicide (a chemical that kills sperm, sometimes found on condoms)
  • washing inside your vagina
  • chlamydia - an STI caused by bacteria
  • genital herpes - an STI caused by the herpes simplex virus

You can click on the above links to learn more about these conditions.

Cleaning your vagina

The vagina is self-cleansing, so there is no need to wash inside it (called douching). Douching can upset the natural balance of bacteria and fungi in your vagina and lead to thrush or bacterial vaginosis.

Vaginal soreness and abnormal vaginal discharge can also be caused by overusing perfumed soaps, bubble baths and shower gels. Never clean your vagina with anything strongly perfumed. Use a mild soap and warm water to gently wash around your genitals.

Content provided by NHS Choices and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.

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