Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common infections caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. However, it can also be caused by another condition, such as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or bacterial vaginosis (BV) that has not been properly treated. In some women, a change in the balance of bacteria in their vagina leads to an unusually thick, white or grey discharge that can smell bad. The bacteria can also attack the vaginal mucosa, causing itching, redness and irritation. BV increases the risk of STIs by making the vagina less acidic and reducing the body’s natural defences against infection.
What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?
When the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disturbed, bacterial vaginosis (BV) can develop. Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection caused by an overgrowth of certain bacteria.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Symptoms of BV include:
- An off-white, thin, or light discharge that can smell fishy and unpleasant
- An increase in discharge from the vagina that has a fish-like odour. This odour can be more noticeable after sex with male partners or during the menstrual cycle.
- Redness or pain during urination or sex
Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis
The leading causes of bacterial vaginosis are
- An imbalance of bacteria in the vagina
- Vaginal douching
- Having multiple sexual partners
Other factors that can contribute to bacterial vaginosis include certain medications, having a weakened immune system, and having a diet high in sugar and dairy products.
Diagnosis of Bacterial Vaginosis
The healthcare professionals will take a swab of vaginal discharge and send it off for testing to determine the type of bacteria in it. They may also measure the pH level of vaginal discharge. On seeing the reports, Doctors will probably prescribe oral (taken by mouth) or vaginal antibiotics to reduce the symptoms. They will also want to see you again in a few weeks or months after starting treatment so that the antibiotics have had time to work. They might do a wet mount or a whiff test to look at the discharge under a microscope and measure the vaginal pH to see if the acidity levels have changed.
Risk Factors for Bacterial Vaginosis
- Vaginal douching(washing) – Douching can remove the natural bacteria and the pH balance in your vagina. When this happens, it’s easier for harmful strains of bacteria to grow. These strains may cause BV symptoms, such as increased vaginal infections and discharge.
- Excessive smoking
- Lack of lactobacilli bacteria – If not enough lactobacilli are present, other harmful bacteria can cause symptoms such as discharge, itching, and burning during sex.
- Multiple sexual partners
Treatment Options for Bacterial Vaginosis
Treatment of bacterial vaginosis includes antibiotics and creams to treat the infection and a change in personal hygiene habits. Depending on the type of infection, the doctor may prescribe tablets to take or an antibiotic gel to be applied directly into the vagina.
Medications for bacterial vaginosis (BV)
The doctor prescribes medicines and topical creams such as tinidazole (Tindamax), metronidazole (Flagyl, Metrogel-vaginal, others) and secnidazole (Solosec) and clindamycin (Cleocin, Clindesse, others). These drugs are effective in treating bacterial vaginosis.
It is important to finish the treatment even if the patient does not feel better after a few days because this will kill the harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of getting BV again.
Prevention of Bacterial Vaginosis
Some preventions include:
- Use barrier methods, such as a condom, during sex.
- Avoiding douching
- Avoid using scented tampons or pads or perfumed menstrual products. These can change the pH balance in the vagina, which can further disrupt the normal bacteria that protect from the infection.
- Don’t have more than one sex partner at a time, and make sure they don’t have BV or other STIs.
When to Consult a Doctor
You can also get in touch with the expert Gynecology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.
BV can be treated with the right treatment plan. It is essential to understand its causes and symptoms and take steps to prevent it from returning. If signs and symptoms of BV are present, it’s important to get treatment ASAP to avoid further complications. Stay healthy and take care of your body to prevent this infection from recurring.
Q. What is bacterial vaginosis?
A. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection that affects women of all ages. A bacterial imbalance in the vagina causes it and can be treated with the right treatment plan.
Q. What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?
A. The symptoms may include a thin, watery discharge, itching, and a burning feeling when urinating.
Q. How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?
A. Diagnosing bacterial vaginosis is done through a physical examination, vaginal secretion sample and vaginal pH levels. If the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment can be started immediately to reduce the risk of complications.
Q. What are the treatment options for bacterial vaginosis?
A. Treatment for bacterial vaginosis usually involves taking oral or topical antibiotics to kill off any bacteria in the vagina. Other treatments may include steam baths and douching to clean out any excess moisture from the vagina.
Q. How can I prevent bacterial vaginosis?
A. Maintaining good hygiene practices can help prevent bacterial vaginosis.
Abstaining from sexual activity or using condoms consistently during sex can reduce the risk of developing BV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Q. What happens if bacterial vaginosis goes untreated?
A. If left untreated, BV can increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the reproductive organs. PID can cause infertility and chronic pain. It can increase susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The imbalance of bacteria makes it easier for harmful bacteria and viruses to enter the body during sexual contact. These include STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV.