Noncandidal vaginitis: a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and management

Chemen M Neal, Lauren H Kus, Linda O Eckert, Jeffrey F Peipert
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2020, 222 (2): 114-122
Vaginitis is one of the most common causes of patient visits to gynecologists, primary care providers, and urgent care centers. However, many women leave without a clear diagnosis or experience recurrent symptoms despite treatment. The 3 most common etiologies of vaginitis are trichomonas, bacterial vaginosis, and vulvovaginal candidiasis, which account for an estimated 70% of cases. The remaining 30% may be related to other causes of vaginitis, including atrophic vaginitis, desquamative inflammatory vaginitis, and vaginal erosive disease. The purpose of this review is to describe the noncandidal causes of acute and recurrent vaginitis, with the goal of improving the likelihood of accurate diagnosis as well as efficient and effective therapy. We excluded candidal vaginitis from our review because there was a recently published review on this topic in the Journal. The clinical presentation and evaluation of patients with symptoms of vaginitis can be triaged into 1 of 2 diagnostic pathways: noninflammatory and inflammatory vaginitis. The most common noninflammatory cause is bacterial vaginosis. Features such as irritation, purulent discharge, and the presence of polymorphonuclear neutrophils are more suggestive of an inflammatory process. Trichomoniasis is the most common cause of inflammatory vaginitis. Other well-described forms of inflammatory vaginitis include atrophic vaginitis, desquamative inflammatory vaginitis, and erosive disease. We present a review of the pathogenesis, symptoms, examination findings, diagnostic testing, and treatment for each of these causes of noncandidal vaginitis.

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