Bacterial Vaginosis – Everything you need to know

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition that may cause complications if left untreated. It increases the chances of sexually transmitted infections. Different kinds of bacteria reside in our bodies and skin. The body maintains a natural balance of these bacteria, but sometimes this balance gets disrupted and causes certain infections including vaginal bacterial infection.

What is bacterial vaginosis?

When the normal bacterial balance of the vagina changes, it causes bacterial vaginosis. It is an infection of the vagina that may lead to serious health issues. It usually causes complications among pregnant women.

Symptoms of BV

The symptoms of BV are usually unclear. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Pain in vulva
  • Itching in infected areas
  • The strong foul smell after intercourse 
  • Smelly vaginal discharge
  • Grayish or white discharge from the vagina
  • Burning sensation while urinating and intercourse

Causes of bacterial vaginosis

Your vagina contains the right balance of bad and good bacteria. These bacteria are naturally found in the vaginal area. When the bad bacteria called anaerobes outnumber the good bacteria (lactobacilli), it causes bacterial vaginosis. The natural balance gets disturbed and causes vaginal bacterial infection. However, the exact causes need to be studied.

Risk factors

Women are at greater risk of developing BV infection, however, you may also get it if you:

  • Are sexually active
  • Avoid using condoms during intercourse
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • Facing a natural lack of good bacteria
  • Make use of vaginal washes

Some women make use of cleansing agents to wash their vagina. This process is called douching. It disturbs the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina and leads to BV. Since the vagina is self-cleaning, you do not need to use cleaning agents.

Diagnosis of BV

If you have symptoms of vaginal infection, you must see your doctor. Your doctor will examine you physically. He may ask about your medical history regarding vaginal or sexually transmitted infections. They may also take a sample of vaginal discharge. These samples are taken to understand the nature and type of bacteria.

They may perform a pH test to check the acidity level of your vagina. A pH of more than 4.5 may be an indication of bacterial vaginosis.

The bacterial balance of the vagina keeps on changing, so if you are tested negative for vaginal infection, it doesn’t mean you don’t have it.

Treatment of bacterial vaginosis

Usually, the BV infection clears up on its own. But in some cases, you need to see your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics. These antibiotics can be in form of gel, cream, or pills.

Normally, the following medications are recommended by doctors:

Metronidazole and Tinidazole – Metronidazoleis available in the form of pills and gels. Pills are for oral use, while gels are inserted into the vagina by using an applicator. Tinidazole is only for oral use. Both medicines may increase the chances of:

Abdominal pain

Nausea and vomiting

Upset stomach

To avoid these complications, patients are advised to limit the intake of alcohol.

Clindamycin cream – this cream is inserted into the vagina. You need to avoid sex after using this cream as it may rupture the latex condom.

Secnidazole – this is a granular antibiotic containing only one dose. Sprinkle the granules over any food or take it with water. Keep in mind that you must complete this food within 30 minutes and must not chew the granules. Avoid alcoholic beverages during Secnidazole therapy.   

Make sure to complete the full antibiotic course, even if your symptoms have gone. Stopping treatment in-between or before time may increase the chances of recurrence of bacterial vaginosis. If you do not see any improvement after finishing the course, talk to your doctor.

Recurrence of BV

Recurrence of bacterial vaginosis is very common. The infection can reappear even after 3 months or just after treatment. If you face the problem of recurrence: immediately talk to your doctor.

You can also try self-help approaches or different preventive measures to increase the number of good bacteria. Eating probiotic-rich food like yogurt may help you boost the number of good bacteria in your vaginal area. You can also take probiotic supplements with the prescription of your doctor.

Preventive measures

You can take a few steps to prevent BV. It includes:

  • Wearing loose clothes
  • Practice hygiene habits
  • Use mild and odorless soaps to clean your vagina
  • Eat probiotic-rich foods like yogurt
  • Avoid excessive douching
  • Practice safe sex methods
  • Avoid scented products for the vagina

Summary

Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition that occurs due to a change in natural bacterial balance. It usually goes on its own, but if extended, you need certain antibiotics treatment. Almost 50% of women develop BV again after treatment.

Talk to your doctor to avoid the recurrence of BV. Eat probiotic-rich foods, practice hygiene, and avoid excessive douching as it may disturb the natural bacterial balance.

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