Bacterial Vaginosis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
- Vaginal discharge: Women with BV may experience a thin, watery, or milky white discharge from the vagina. The discharge may have a strong fishy odor, which may be more noticeable after sex.
- Vaginal odor: A strong, fishy odor is a characteristic symptom of BV. The odor may be more noticeable after sex or during menstruation.
- Vaginal itching or burning: Some women with BV may experience itching or burning around the vagina or vulva.
- Pain during urination: BV can cause pain or discomfort when urinating.
- Pain during sex: BV may cause discomfort or pain during sex, which can make it difficult to enjoy sexual activity.
What Causes Vaginal Bacterial Infection?
The exact reason why bacterial vaginosis is caused by is still unknown, but it is thought to be due to an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. Normally, the vagina contains a balance of “good” bacteria (such as Lactobacillus) and “harmful” bacteria (such as Gardnerella vaginalis). When there is an overgrowth of the harmful bacteria, it can lead to BV.
There are multiple risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing BV, including:
- Sexual activity: Women who are sexually active, especially with multiple partners, have a higher risk of developing BV.
- Douching: Douching can also disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina, making it easier for harmful bacteria to overgrow.
- Antibiotics: The use of antibiotics, especially for an extended period of time, can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina and also increase the risk of developing BV.
- Hormonal changes: The fluctuations in hormones, such as those that occur during pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause, can increase the risk of BV.
While BV is not typically harmful, it can increase the risk of complications, including:
- Increased risk of STIs: Women with BV are at a higher risk of contracting multiple sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): BV can lead to the development of PID, a serious infection of the reproductive organs that can cause infertility.
- Preterm Labor and Delivery: Pregnant women with BV have an increased risk of having preterm labor and delivery, which can lead to complications for both the mother and baby.
- Post-surgical infections: Women who have had gynecological surgery, such as a hysterectomy, are at an increased risk of developing post-surgical infections if they have BV.
How is Bacterial Vaginosis Diagnosed?
- Vaginal exam: A healthcare provider will examine the vagina for signs of inflammation, discharge, or odor.
- pH testing: The pH level of the vagina can be measured using a test strip or a swab. A pH level higher than 4.5 can indicate BV.
- Wet mount test: A sample of vaginal discharge is collected and thereafter examined under a microscope to check for the presence of any “clue cells,” which are cells covered in bacteria that are a sign of BV.
- Whiff test: A sample of vaginal discharge is mixed with potassium hydroxide (KOH) to see if there is a characteristic fishy odor that is often present in women with BV.
- Culture test: A sample of the vaginal discharge is sent to a laboratory to be cultured, which can help identify the specific type of bacteria present in the vagina.
Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment
- Antibiotics: Metronidazole and clindamycin are two antibiotics commonly used to treat BV. These medications can be taken orally, applied topically, or inserted into the vagina as a cream or gel.
- Probiotics: Probiotics containing lactobacilli bacteria, which are found naturally in the vagina, can help restore the balance of bacteria and reduce the risk of BV recurrence.
- Boric acid: Boric acid suppositories can be inserted into the vagina to help restore the balance of bacteria and reduce the symptoms of BV.
- Vaginal estrogen therapy: For postmenopausal women, vaginal estrogen therapy can help restore the balance of bacteria present in the vagina and reduce the risk of BV.
- Avoiding douching.
- Wearing cotton underwear.
- Avoiding tight-fitting pants and pantyhose.
- Using unscented and hypoallergenic products for vaginal hygiene.
- Practicing safe sex, including using condoms and limiting sexual partners.
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- Avoiding douching: Douching can also disrupt the natural balance of the bacteria in the vagina and increase the risk of BV. Therefore, it’s important to avoid douching.
- Wearing cotton underwear: Wearing breathable cotton underwear can help prevent excess moisture from building up in the vagina, which can contribute to the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Avoid tight-fitting pants and pantyhose: Tight-fitting clothing can trap moisture and heat, creating an environment that is favorable for the harmful growth of bacteria. Therefore, it’s important to wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Using unscented and hypoallergenic products for vaginal hygiene: Scented products, such as perfumes and soaps, can irritate the very delicate tissues of the vagina and increase the risk of BV. Therefore, it’s important to use unscented and hypoallergenic products for vaginal hygiene.
- Practicing safe sex: Using condoms and also limiting sexual partners can potentially help reduce the risk of contracting STIs, which can increase the risk of BV.
- Eating a healthy diet: Having nutrients, such as vitamins and also minerals, can help boost the immune system immensely and reduce the risk of infections, including BV.
When Should I Call a Doctor?
- Recurrent BV: If you have had multiple episodes of BV in the past, it’s important to see a healthcare provider soon for further evaluation and treatment.
- Pregnancy: BV can increase the risk of certain complications during pregnancy, such as premature birth, so it’s rather important to seek medical attention if you are pregnant and experience any symptoms of BV.
- Other symptoms: If you experience any of the other symptoms, which may include fever, abdominal pain, or pelvic pain, it’s important to seek medical attention to rule out other possible causes.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get an online prescription for Bacterial vaginosis from Ongo Care?
What are the advantages Ongo Care can provide me if I schedule an appointment?
Ongo Care can provide several advantages if you schedule an appointment, including convenient and accessible virtual healthcare services, access to licensed healthcare providers, personalized treatment plans, and ongoing support for managing and preventing BV.