Vaginitis test - wet mount

Alternative names
Wet prep

This is a test for vaginitis (an infection of the vagina that does not include the urinary tract). The symptoms may include itching, pain, vaginal odor, and a vaginal discharge.

How the test is performed

You will be asked to lie on your back with your feet in the stirrups. A pelvic examination will be done, and a speculum (an instrument used to keep the vagina open in order to examine the interior) will be inserted into your vagina and opened slightly.

A sterile, moist cotton swab is inserted, and a sample of the discharge is taken. The swab is removed and then the speculum. Slides are prepared, one with a salt solution and one with a potassium hydroxide solution, then viewed under a microscope.

How to prepare for the test
Do not douche for 24-hours before the test.

For infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For general information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following:

How the test will feel
There may be a slight discomfort with the pelvic examination.

Why the test is performed
The test looks for the cause of the vaginal irritation and discharge.

Normal Values
A normal value occurs when there is no indication of an infection.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results indicate infection, and the most common infections are caused by one of these sources, or a combination:

  • A Vaginal Yeast Infection (caused by Candida albicans) - resulting in a white, cheesy discharge; severe itching; painful intercourse; and a rash or vaginal inflammation.  
  • Trichomoniasis, an infection caused by a protozoan parasite - produces a yellowish, frothy, foul-smelling discharge. Sores can develop on the cervix. There may be pain on urination or intercourse.  
  • A bacterial infection (gardnerella vaginalis or hemophilus vaginalis) - producing bacterial vaginosis. The symptoms are a heavy, white, fishy-smelling discharge. There may be a rash or painful intercourse, or odor after intercourse.

Different treatments are necessary for each type of infection.

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

  • Atrophic vaginitis (associated with lack of estrogen)

What the risks are
There are no risks.

Special considerations
If the infection is caused by trichomoniasis or a bacterium, the sexual partner should be treated also. This prevents the partners from being re-infected after the treatment.

It is possible to have an inflammation of the vagina from chemical irritation (such as from bubble bath or vaginal spray), mechanical abrasion (a scraping away at the surface), or a lack of estrogen.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.

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