What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?


Bacterial vaginosis is considered as a sexually transmitted disease, although the exact cause for the bacterial infection of the vagina is unknown. Although it is a common infection among women, there are some potential health risks associated with the disease. It's important for a woman to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms so that she may get treatment.


Bacterial vaginosis is a disease of the vagina that is caused by bacteria. The causative bacteria are usually the organisms that normally reside in the vagina. In the case of vaginosis, there is an overgrowth of these bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection among women who are of childbearing age.


Nearly half of all women who have bacterial vaginosis have no symptoms. For those who do, the most common is a white or discolored discharge, or a fishy-smelling discharge. Some women with bacterial vaginosis may experience an itchy and/or sore vaginal area, and burning during urination.


BV does not usually have complications in healthy women, but having BV while pregnant may put a woman at risk for complications of pregnancy, such as early delivery or giving birth to a low-birth-weight infant. Additionally, having BV can increase a woman's susceptibility to HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as increase her risk of infection after pelvic surgery. An HIV-positive woman with BV also raises the chance of passing on HIV to her sex partner.


The exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is not known. Researchers have been unable to pinpoint what causes the normal vaginal flora to go awry. The three activities known to increase the risk of a woman getting BV are douching, having a new sex partner or having multiple sex partners.


Treatment for BV is through an oral medication, such as clindamycin or metronidazole, or vaginal gel that eliminates the infection. It is important that patients take or use all of the medication as it is prescribed, whether symptoms abate early in treatment or not. There is no over-the-counter medication that will cure BV.


Because the exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is uncertain, there is no guaranteed method of prevention. Even women who are not sexually active can get BV. Protective measures such as good personal hygiene, limiting sex partners, avoiding douches and intimate deodorants, following a balanced diet and seeing a health care provider once a year for a pelvic exam are prudent.


This information is not meant to replace advice from a health care provider.

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