Definition

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vagina. It is associated with an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.

Vagina

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Causes

A mix of good and bad bacteria are normally found in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an increase in the amount of bad bacteria. The increased bad bacteria causes a decrease in good bacteria. This imbalance can lead to symptoms.

It is not clear exactly what causes the increase in bad bacteria.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of bacterial vaginosis include:

    
  • Antibiotic use
  • Smoking
  • Douching
  • Having a new sexual partner or multiple partners
  • Having sex without a condom
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
  • Any woman can get bacterial vaginosis, including those who have never had sex.

    Symptoms

    Some women with bacterial vaginosis do not have any symptoms.

    Symptoms that can develop include:

        
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge     
  • Color: white or gray
  • Consistency: thin, foamy, or watery
  • Odor: fish-like, especially after sex
  • Burning feeling while urinating
  • Itching around the vagina
  • Vaginal irritation
  • There are several different conditions that can causes these symptoms. Your doctor will help you determine the cause of your symptoms.

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Tests may include the following:

        
  • A pelvic exam to look for signs of bacterial vaginosis
  • A sample of fluid from the vagina to look for specific bacteria or other infectious agents
  • Treatment

    Bacterial vaginosis can lead to complications such as:

        
  • Increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV , gonorrhea , or chlamydia.
  • Increased chance of getting pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Increased risk of premature birth
  • Treatment is important even if you do not have any symptoms. The main course of treatment is prescription antibiotic pills or vaginal creams. Finish all medication as prescribed by your doctor even if the symptoms have gone away. This can prevent the infection from recurring.

    Avoid sexual intercourse during treatment. If you do have sexual intercourse, use condoms. Usually, male sexual partners do not need to be treated. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

    Prevention

    To help reduce your chances of getting bacterial vaginosis, take the following steps:

        
  • Abstain from sex or remain monogamous.
  • Use condoms when having sex.
  • Do not use douches.
  • Visit your doctor for regular pelvic exams.
  • After bowel movements, wipe from front to back, away from the vagina.