Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vagina in which the body produces more harmful than beneficial bacteria. This imbalance of bacteria can lead to symptoms such as unusual vaginal discharge, itching, inflammation, or burning during urination. Bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, and is also common in pregnant women.
While this infection is not necessarily transmitted through sexual contact, engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse or having multiple or new sex partners can affect bacteria in the vagina and increase a patient's risk of bacterial vaginosis. It may also be caused by douching, which can upset the natural balance of bacteria in the vaginal environment.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Patients with bacterial vaginosis often experience a vaginal discharge with an unpleasant, fishy odor that is most noticeable after intercourse. The discharge may be white or gray, and it can be foamy or watery. Some women may experience burning during urination or itching around the vaginal area, while others may not experience any symptoms at all.
Many of these symptoms may be similar to another type of infection, so it is important to see a doctor in order to receive an accurate diagnosis.
Diagnosing Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is diagnosed by taking a sample of the discharge from the vagina and testing it in a lab. The doctor may also detect signs of this infection during a pelvic exam. Regular testing can help ensure that bacterial vaginosis or any other infections are detected in their earliest stages, especially in patients not experiencing any symptoms Before the appointment, it is important not to douche, use vaginal deodorant, have sex or use tampons for at least 24 hours.
Complications of Bacterial Vaginosis
While bacterial vaginosis is not generally a serious condition, and can usually be treated successfully, untreated cases may develop into more serious infections in the uterus or fallopian tubes. If left untreated, infections may develop into pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility and chronic pelvic pain. Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis are at an increased risk of having a baby born prematurely or with a low birth weight. Bacterial vaginosis also increases a patient's risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, as well as passing the infection on to their partner.
Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis
While some cases of bacterial vaginosis will clear up with out treatment, patients with bacterial vaginosis should be treated promptly to ensure that the infection fully clears, which reduce risks of complications. Treatment involves oral antibiotics, and clindamycin cream may also be prescribed to be inserted into the vagina to treat symptoms of itching and inflammation.
Preventing Bacterial Vaginosis
Although the specific causes of bacterial vaginosis are not fully understood, there are certain recommendations to reduce the risk of developing this infection. These recommendations include:
- Abstaining from sex
- Limiting the number of sexual partners
- Using condoms
- Do not douche
Regular pelvic exams and testing can detect this and other infections in their earliest stages, ensuring the most effective treatment results.