| Risk Factors
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vulva and vagina. It is associated with an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.
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A mix of good and bad
bacteria is normally found in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an increase in the amount of bad bacteria. The increase in bad bacteria causes a decrease in good bacteria. This imbalance can lead to symptoms.
It is not clear exactly what causes the increase in bad bacteria.
Factors that may increase your chance of bacterial vaginosis include:
- Antibiotic use
- Having a new sexual partner or multiple partners
- Having sex without a condom
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
Any woman can get bacterial vaginosis, including those who have never had sex.
Some women with bacterial vaginosis do not have any symptoms.
Symptoms that can develop include:
- Itching around the vagina
- Vaginal irritation
- Burning feeling while urinating
Abnormal vaginal discharge:
- Color: white or gray
- Consistency: thin, foamy, or watery
- Odor: fish-like, especially after sex
There are several different conditions that can cause these symptoms. Your doctor will help you determine the cause of your symptoms.
You will be asked about your symptoms, and medical and sexual history. A physical exam will be done. This will include a pelvic exam.
Fluid from your vagina may be tested to look for specific bacteria or other infectious agents.
Bacterial vaginosis can lead to complications such as an increased risk of:
Treatment is important even if you do not have any symptoms. The main course of treatment is prescription antibiotic pills or vaginal creams. Finish all medication as prescribed by your doctor even if the symptoms have gone away. This can prevent the infection from recurring.
Avoid sexual intercourse during treatment. If you do have sexual intercourse, use condoms. Usually, male sexual partners do not need to be treated. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
To help reduce your chance of bacterial vaginosis:
- Abstain from sex or remain monogamous.
- Use condoms when having sex.
- Do not use douches.
- After bowel movements, wipe from front to back, away from the vagina.
2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Updated October 21, 2015. Accessed December 11, 2015.
Bacterial vaginosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/std/BV/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm. Updated September 3, 2015. Accessed December 11, 2015.
Bacterial vaginosis. Office on Women's Health website. Available at:
http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bacterial-vaginosis.html. Updated May 26, 2015. Accessed December 11, 2015..
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http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115494/Bacterial-vaginosis-BV. Updated July 29, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
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Myer L, Kuhn L, et al. Intravaginal practices, bacterial vaginosis, and women's susceptibility to HIV infection: epidemiological evidence and biological mechanisms.
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Taha TE, Hoover DR, et al. Bacterial vaginosis and disturbances of vaginal flora: association with increased acquisition of HIV.
7/7/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115494/Bacterial-vaginosis-BV: Qaseem A, Humphrey LL, Harris R, et al. Screening pelvic examination in adult women: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(1):67-72.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Karli-Rae Kerrschneider, RN
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