Bacterial Vaginosis

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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal condition that arises when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted, leading to an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria. It’s not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but can increase the risk of developing an STI, including HIV.

BV affects women of reproductive age but can occur in any woman, regardless of her sexual history.

Bacterial Vaginosis Causes

 

Causes

The vagina naturally contains a mix of bacteria, predominantly lactobacilli, which help keep the vaginal environment slightly acidic. This acidity prevents harmful bacteria from proliferating. However, when the balance is disturbed, harmful bacteria can grow more rapidly, leading to BV. The exact cause of this imbalance is not always clear, but several factors can increase the risk of developing BV, including:

  • Multiple sexual partners or a new sexual partner
  • Douching, which can upset the natural balance of bacteria
  • Lack of lactobacilli bacteria
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Many women with BV do not show symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • A thin, gray, white, or green vaginal discharge
  • A foul-smelling “fishy” vaginal odor
  • Vaginal itching
  • Burning during urination

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of BV typically involves a medical history review, a pelvic examination, and testing of vaginal secretions for signs of infection, such as pH levels and the presence of clue cells under a microscope.

Treatment

BV is treatable with antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare provider. It’s important to complete the entire course of medication, even if symptoms disappear, to ensure the infection is fully eradicated. Treatment can reduce the symptoms and prevent potential complications, such as increased susceptibility to STIs, and issues related to pregnancy, such as premature delivery.

Prevention

Preventative measures for BV include avoiding douching, practicing safe sex, and maintaining healthy vaginal flora. For women who experience recurrent BV, a healthcare provider may recommend a prolonged course of antibiotics or even vaginal boric acid suppositories.

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