Vaginal and Vulvar Conditions | OB-GYN


Vaginal and Vulvar Conditions

Health issues with your vagina and vulva can impact many everyday activities, from sexual intimacy to urination. At UC Davis Health, we offer expert care to restore your quality of life.

Medically reviewed by L. Elaine Waetjen, M.D. on Aug. 22, 2023.

Female physician speaking to her female patient and smiling

Personalized Care for Vulvovaginal Disorders

The experienced providers in the UC Davis Health Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB-GYN) diagnose and treat all vulvovaginal disorders. We provide compassionate gynecologic care for people of all ages.

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What Are Vaginal and Vulvar Conditions?

Vaginal and vulvar conditions are a spectrum of health concerns that impact your vagina and vulva (external genitalia). They are also known as vulvovaginal disorders. These conditions can range from common infections to rare or complex cancers.

Common vaginal and vulval conditions include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis: This condition is when your vagina has an imbalance of bacteria.
  • Vaginitis: Symptoms of this condition include Inflammation in your vagina, most often caused by infections. Yeast infections are an example of a type of vaginitis.
  • Vulvitis: Inflammation of your vulva is common with this condition, which is most often caused by skin conditions such as dermatitis.
  • Vulvovaginal atrophy: This causes dryness and inflammation in the tissues of your vagina and vulva related to low estrogen levels.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI): Vaginal discharge or vaginitis can be signs of a sexually transmitted infection.

Symptoms of Vaginal and Vulvar Conditions

Your symptoms will depend on your condition. Sometimes, you may have no symptoms.

Common Symptoms

Possible signs of a vaginal or vulvar condition include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge or odor
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Skin changes, sores or lumps on your vulva
  • Vaginal dryness and discomfort

Emergency Symptoms

Seek care immediately if you have any of the following:


Causes of Vulvovaginal Disorders

Vaginal and vulvar conditions can have many causes. They are more common after puberty and can continue into your postmenopausal years. Common causes include:


You can be allergic to chemicals in detergents, douches, soaps or spermicides. These allergies are a common cause of vulvovaginal conditions like vaginitis.

Bacteria Imbalance

A healthy vagina has “good” bacteria (called lactobacilli) that protect it from diseases. Sometimes “bad” bacteria invade your vagina and grow, killing off the lactobacilli. This causes bacterial vaginosis.

Hormone Changes

Changing hormones can cause vaginal dryness. This is most common during breastfeeding and after menopause, when estrogen levels are low.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus. Certain strains of HPV cause most vulvar and vaginal cancers.

Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

The most common STIs that cause vaginal discharge and/or vulvovaginal irritation are trichomonad, chlamydia and gonorrhea.


Yeast (candida) is a normal part of the flora in your vagina. Sometimes yeast can grow out of control. This causes a yeast infection.


Diagnosing Vaginal and Vulvar Conditions

Our providers use the latest technology and procedures to diagnose all vulvovaginal conditions. We will discuss your medical history and symptoms and do a physical exam.

Depending on your symptoms, we may recommend one or more of the following tests: 

  • Biopsy of vulvar tissue to look for certain skin conditions and pre-cancerous or cancerous cells 
  • Blood test to check for certain sexually transmitted infections (STI) 
  • Vulvovaginal swab to detect infections 
  • Urine test to check for a urinary tract infection (UTI) or STI 

Vulvovaginal Disorder Treatments

The gynecologists at UC Davis Health use the most advanced treatments available for all vaginal and vulvar conditions. Our treatment options include:


We treat bacterial infections with oral antibiotics (taken by mouth) or vaginal creams or suppositories.

Antifungal Medication

We treat yeast infections with antifungal creams, ointments or suppositories.

Estrogen Therapy

For hormone-related vaginal dryness, we may prescribe estrogen therapy using creams, pills or other methods.

Topical Therapy for Vulvar Pre-Cancer

Our treatment options for pre-cancerous lesions on your vulva include laser, excision and sometimes medications.


Preventing Vulvovaginal Disorders

You can lower your risk of developing some disorders with healthy lifestyle habits:

Avoid Douches and Vaginal Sprays

These products contain chemicals that can alter the balance of bacteria in your vagina.

Cleanse with Water

Avoid fragrances, harsh chemicals and soaps to prevent an allergic reaction.

Practice Safe Sex

You can prevent STIs by using condoms and other safe sex practices.

Wear Breathable Underwear and Avoid Tight Clothing

This helps to reduce irritation.

How common is bacterial vaginosis?

29%Of women between ages 14-49 are affected

Bacterial vaginosis signs and symptoms

84%Of women report no symptoms

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Statistics

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