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What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when an overgrowth of bacteria causes vaginal infection. Every healthy vagina contains bacteria known as microbiomes which are both “bad” bacteria and “good” bacteria. Usually, these bacteria keep balancing each other. In some cases, the “bad” bacteria start growing too much and overpower the “good” bacteria which imbalances the bacteria in your vagina and results in bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis might lead to your vaginal discharge having a “fishy” odour along with causing vaginal irritation in some people and others might not have any kind of signs and symptoms. Bacterial vaginosis normally doesn’t cause any other health issues but it can cause some problems, specifically if you are trying to get pregnant or pregnant.

What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis mostly does not show any kind of symptoms but in some cases, there may be some symptoms such as:

– Thin, vaginal discharge that can be white, green, or grey.

– Foul-smelling, “fishy” vaginal odour.

– Itching in the vagina.

– Burning sensation during urination.

What are the Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis?

Your vagina is home to multiple types of bacteria known as microbiome and a change in the balance of the bacteria leads to bacterial vaginosis. To be precise, bacterial vaginosis occurs when “bad” bacteria known as anaerobes grow more rapidly than “good” bacteria known as lactobacilli. Lactobacilli, the “good bacteria” keeps your vagina moderately acidic and keeps the growth of “bad” bacteria in balance and when the level of the “good” bacteria lactobacilli drops, more bad bacteria grow, which results in bacterial vaginosis.

Any changes in the natural chemistry of the vagina might affect the bacteria in your vagina and due to this, some particular activities such as unprotected sex or douching can cause bacterial vaginosis.

What are the Risk Factors of Bacterial Vaginosis?

The risk factors of bacterial vaginosis include:

– Having different sex partners or a new sex partner

The connection between having sex and bacterial vaginosis isn’t understandable yet but when someone has different or new sex partners bacterial vaginosis happens. Also, bacterial vaginosis is more common when both the people indulging in sexual activity are female.

– Douching

The vagina cleans itself automatically and rinsing or washing your vagina with water or any other substance else isn’t required and it might even cause problems. Douching creates a problem in the vagina’s healthy balance of bacteria. It can result in an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria, which can lead to bacterial vaginosis.

– Natural lack of lactobacilli bacteria

Sometimes your vagina doesn’t produce enough lactobacilli, which leads to an increased risk of developing bacterial vaginosis.

– Smoking

Females who smoke are more prone to bacterial vaginosis as compared to those who do not smoke.

What are the Complications of Bacterial Vaginosis?

The complications of bacterial vaginosis include:

– Sexually transmitted diseases

Your risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV, chlamydia, herpes simplex virus, or gonorrhoea increases if you have bacterial vaginosis.

– Infection risk post-gynecological surgery

The risk of developing an infection post-surgery including curettage (D&C) and hysterectomy or dilation increases if you have bacterial vaginosis.

– Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Bacterial vaginosis might sometimes lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which is the infection of the uterus and the fallopian tubes. It increases the risk of infertility.

– Pregnancy issues

Some studies have shown that there might be a connection between bacterial vaginosis and pregnancy issues such as preterm birth and low birth weight. These issues might arise because of other reasons also like having a history of early delivery. But you should be tested if you experience symptoms of bacterial vaginosis while pregnant and if you are diagnosed positive then your doctor can provide the best treatment for you for bacterial vaginosis.

How Bacterial Vaginosis is Diagnosed?

To diagnose bacterial vaginosis, your doctor will first ask you questions about your medical history, especially if you’ve had any vaginal infections or STIs before. After that, your doctor may recommend some tests including:

– A pelvic exam

In this procedure, your doctor will examine your vagina to detect if there is any kind of infection. After that, the doctor will feel your pelvic organs by inserting two fingers into the vagina whilst pressing on the abdomen, with the other hand.

– Taking a sample of vaginal discharge

In this procedure, a sample of your vaginal discharge will be taken and tested for “clue cells.” Clue cells are vaginal cells covered in bacteria which are signs of bacterial vaginosis.

– Testing vaginal pH

Here the acidity of your vagina will be tested using a pH strip. This test strip will be put in your vagina and a vaginal pH of 4.5 or more is a sign of bacterial vaginosis.

What are the Treatment Options Available for Bacterial Vaginosis?

Medications are used to treat bacterial vaginosis. The medicines which your doctor may prescribe include:

– Metronidazole

This medicine comes in the form of a topical gel or as a pill. You have to take the pill orally, while the gel is inserted into your vagina. You need to avoid alcohol while using this medicine and the next day. This medicine might have some effects such as stomach pain or nausea.

– Clindamycin

It comes in the form of a cream that you have to insert into your vagina. You can also use the pill in suppository form and swallow it. The cream and suppositories might weaken latex condoms so you shall avoid sex during treatment and for at least the next three days after stopping the use of medicine.

– Tinidazole

This medicine is taken by mouth. It might cause stomach upset. It’s advisable to not drink alcohol during treatment and following three days after finishing treatment.

– Secnidazole

It is an antibiotic that has to be taken one time while eating food. It comes in the form of a packet of granules that you have to sprinkle on soft food, like pudding, applesauce, or yoghourt. You need to take the mixture within 30 minutes after sprinkling  but you shall not crunch or chew the granules

Living with Bacterial Vaginosis

Even though bacterial vaginosis is a mild infection, it might make you prone to more serious conditions. If you notice anything unusual about your vaginal discharge you shall contact your doctor who can treat this condition with antibiotics. You should continue your medication for as long as prescribed, even if after your symptoms fade away. If you stop treatment early, there are chances that the bacterial vaginosis comes again. This is known as recurrent bacterial vaginosis.

Whom to Consult?

You shall seek medical care in instances including:

– Your vaginal discharge smells unusual with a fishy odour along with the feeling of discomfort. Your doctor will diagnose your condition and start treatment accordingly.

– You suffered vaginal infections before but this time your discharge is looking different.

– In case you have a new sex partner or various sex partners. The symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) are similar to those of bacterial vaginosis.

– You felt that you had a yeast infection but the symptoms are not going after self-treatment.

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