Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina. the Gardnerella bacterium is the most common one involved, but there are many different types of bacteria that can lead to Bacterial Vaginosis.
Women of any age are subject to BV. Mostly, women of reproductive age are more susceptible to the infection, but young girls, even virgins can get BV as well as post-menopausal women.
Taking bubble baths, douching, or other flushing mechanisms that women use in their vagina are associated with BV and many gynecologists warn women not to use these solutions as they disturb the natural ph balance of the vagina.
In the United States, BV is common among pregnant women. Also, lesbians and bisexual women have a higher occurrence of BV than heterosexual women.
Bacterial Vaginosis affects the vagina, urethra, bladder and skin in the genital area.
The main cause for BV is the overgrowth of the anaerobic bacteria and the Gardnerella organism. A healthy vagina does include a small amount of this bacterium, but when it becomes unbalanced, infection occurs. Also, E. Coli, which lives normally in the rectum, can be transferred to the vaginal walls also causing Bacterial Vaginosis.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial Vaginosis is commonly mistaken for a yeast infection. The symptoms for a yeast infection, however, are completely different that those for BV. Women with the infection experience a foul-smelling vaginal odor and their discharge is grayish in color and more watery and thin than usual. Some women experience a burning or itching sensation.
The foul-smelling odor can turn fishy, especially after sexual intercourse. Also, some women can feel a burning during urination. On the other hand, some women do not get any symptoms at all.
Diagnosing Bacterial Vaginosis
There are some simple laboratory tests that can be conducted to determine the presence of BV.
It is important to not douche before visiting the gynecologist as this can disrupt the results for a positive or negative test of BV. If the physician can see Clue cells, which are large balls of bacteria sticking to the vaginal walls, the individual definitely has BV.
A sample of vaginal fluid can be taken and tested for certain types of bacteria that are associated with Bacterial Vaginosis. In addition, a test to verify the vaginal acidity (pH) can be done; if the pH is elevated, it is a sign of BV. In some instances, potassium hydroxide is added to the vaginal fluid to see if the odor is enhanced. If the odor becomes foul or fishy, BV can be confirmed.
Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis
Even though some women do not need to seek treatment as their BV disappears naturally, treatment for BV is relatively simple. Two different antibiotics can be prescribed for sufferers of BV. These medications can be used by women who are pregnant as well. Metronidazole can be taken orally in a single 2gm dosage. This also comes in a gel that can be inserted into the vagina twice a day for 5 days, and it works as well as the oral method, although a little messier. The upside is that the side effects, like an upset stomach, can be avoided. Also clindamycin can be taken orally in 300mg doses twice a day for a week. Clindamycin has a vaginal cream that can be applied once daily for seven days.
It also important to get your partner tested. Even if the infection is cleared up, your partner may still have an infection and the ability to re-infect. This is common with female partners and not generally with male partners.
What Happens if Bacterial Vaginosis Goes Untreated?
If the BV goes untreated it can increase a women’s susceptibility to HIV and other STDs such as Herpes simplex virus, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
Pregnant women are susceptible to BV and the complications of this can lead to preterm delivery, delivering a baby with low birth weight, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Women who are infected with BV and then have surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy or abortion can increase their chances of post-surgical infections.
Preventing Bacterial Vaginosis
The best way to prevent Bacterial Vaginosis is to be abstinent. It is established that women with multiple sexual partners have an increased risk of being infected with BV; for this reason limiting the number of sexual partners can reduce the risk of Bacterial Vaginosis.
Not douching can also help prevent a BV infection. As the solution upsets the balance of the vagina, it is recommended to not use douching solutions. Instead make sure that the vagina and anus are always clean and washed. Warm water will do the job just fine.
If BV is detected and a treatment course is prescribed, it is important to follow through on treatment until the end. Not doing this can result in the recurrence of the infection. Regular pelvic exams will also help with the diagnosing of BV.
Who is at Risk for Contracting Bacterial Vaginosis?
- The following list includes those people that are at a higher risk of contracting Bacterial Vaginosis:
- Women with new sexual partners
- Women with more than 2 partners
- Women not using any method of protection
- Women who douche or use flushing solutions to clean their vagina
- Women who have a history of other STDsWomen who do not hygienically take care of the genital area
Statistics about Bacterial Vaginosis
The following are some important statistics about Bacterial Vaginosis:
- 40 percent of women get BV once in their life
- In the United States, 16 percent of pregnant women have BV
- 640,000 women are infected with BV each year
- Approximately 20 percent of pregnant women become infected with BV
- BV affects 10 to 64 percent of the female population at any given time
- 5 to 30 percent of women do not experience any symptoms of BV
- 25 percent of women with BV have the infection resolve on its own
- Even after treatment one-third of women have recurring symptoms
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