Bacterial Vaginosis Explained

Vaginal Bacteriosis, or more commonly referred to as Bacterial Vaginosis, is a leading vaginal infection in women of child-bearing age. Although one of the primary causes for this infection is having sexual contact with a new partner, this condition is not a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).

It is most commonly confused with other vaginal infections such as candidiasis and trichomoniasis. Both of these infections are caused by bacteria. On the other hand, Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) arises when there is an imbalance in the natural flora (friendly bacteria) of the vagina. The natural flora of the vagina is predominantly comprised of 95% Lactobacillus bacteria which limits the growth of unhealthy bacteria within the female genitalia.

What Are The Causes Of BV?

Although the precise cause of BV is not known, the following factors are said to contribute towards the imbalance in Lactobacilli within the vagina:

  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Using certain hygiene products such as douche
  • Smoking

More on the causes here.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of BV?

Symptoms are the feelings that the patient experiences that are particular to a particular condition. In the case of BV, about 50% of the women are asymptomatic. Nonetheless, some of the common symptoms are:

  • Sensation of burning during urination
  • Itching on the labia (lips) of the vagina
  • Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area
  • Pain during sex
  • Smell worsens after sexual intercourse
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Signs refer to the changes that the doctor or other people will notice. These include:

  • Watery and thin vaginal discharge
  • Grey or white vaginal discharge
  • Discharge has a ‘fishy’ smell

Who Is At Risk?

The following women are at a higher risk of getting Bacterial Vaginosis:

  • Women with multiple sexual partners
  • Women who frequently practice douching
  • Women who smoke

What Kinds Of Medication And Treatment Options Are Prescribed?

The diagnosis of BV is established through a pelvic exam and after analyzing a sample of vaginal discharge. These include wet mount, Whiff Test, Oligonucleotide probes and checking vaginal pH. A positive Whiff test and detection of clue cells in the vaginal discharge are confirmatory factors of BV.

Antibiotics such as Metronidazole (Flagyl), Clindamycin and Tinidazole are prescribed and may be taken orally, or ovules and creams can be used on the vagina. Pregnant ladies however, have to take medication orally. The treatment continues for 7 days.

Although these are effective treatment options, 25% women report a recurrence of the infection within the next 4 weeks.

You can find out more about treating recurrent BV at this BMJ article.

Does BV Give Rise To Any Other Complications?

BV increases the risk of:

  • Miscarriage in pregnant ladies
  • Preterm delivery
  • Infection after delivery
  • Catching a Sexually Transmitted Infection such as HIV
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or endometriosis
  • Limit your sexual partners
  • Avoid douching
  • Quit smoking
  • Use condoms

How Can You Prevent BV?

It is necessary to practice good hygiene and use protection if you have a female sex partner.

With the help of the above information, you will be able to make sure that you deal with Bacterial Vaginosis effectively.

Getting Tested for Bacterial Vaginosis

As the symptoms for Bacterial Vagninosis can be similar to other diseases, it is essential that patients are tested for a variety of potential causes and also that sexually transmitted infections are ruled out. The sort of testing that should be performed should include a microscopy, culture and PCR. If you take a look at this page on website then this will give you a good overview of the testing that you should be recommending to patients.

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