Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginal inflammation caused by the overgrowth of bacteria naturally found in the vagina, which upsets the natural balance.
Women in their reproductive years are most likely to get bacterial vaginosis, but it can affect women of any age. The cause isn’t completely understood, but certain activities, such as unprotected sex or frequent douching, increase your risk.
Bacterial vaginosis signs and symptoms may include:
Many women with bacterial vaginosis have no signs or symptoms.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if:
Bacterial vaginosis results from overgrowth of one of several bacteria naturally found in your vagina. Usually, “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber “bad” bacteria (anaerobes). But if there are too many anaerobic bacteria, they upset the natural balance of microorganisms in your vagina and cause bacterial vaginosis.
Risk factors for bacterial vaginosis include:
Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t generally cause complications. Sometimes, having bacterial vaginosis may lead to:
To help prevent bacterial vaginosis:
To diagnose bacterial vaginosis, your doctor may:
To treat bacterial vaginosis, your doctor may prescribe one of the following medications:
It’s generally not necessary to treat an infected woman’s male sexual partner, but bacterial vaginosis can spread between female sexual partners. Female partners should seek testing and may need treatment. It’s especially important for pregnant women with symptoms to be treated to help decrease the risk of premature delivery or low birth weight.
Take your medicine or use the cream or gel for as long as your doctor prescribes it — even if your symptoms go away. Stopping treatment early may increase the risk of recurrence.
It’s common for bacterial vaginosis to recur within three to 12 months, despite treatment. Researchers are exploring treatments for recurrent bacterial vaginosis. If your symptoms recur soon after treatment, talk with your doctor about treatments. One option may be extended-use metronidazole therapy.
A self-help approach is lactobacillus colonization therapy — which attempts to boost the number of good bacteria in your vagina and re-establish a balanced vaginal environment — possibly accomplished by eating certain types of yogurt or other foods containing lactobacilli. While current research shows there may be some benefit to probiotic therapy, more research is needed on the subject.