Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis Summary
Bacterial vaginosis is an abnormal vaginal condition that is characterized by vaginal discharge resulting from an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. Although it may cause some disturbing symptoms (discharge and odor), it is not dangerous and cannot be passed by sex. Diagnosis becomes important to exclude serious infections like gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Many treatment options are available such as oral antibiotics and vaginal gels.
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Bacterial vaginosis facts

  • Bacterial vaginosis is an abnormal vaginal condition that is characterized by vaginal discharge and results from an overgrowth of unusual bacteria in the vagina.
  • Bacterial vaginosis is not dangerous, but it can cause disturbing symptoms.
  • Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are vaginal discharge and odor, although most women with the condition experience no symptoms.
  • In diagnosing bacterial vaginosis, it is important to exclude other serious infections, such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
  • Treatment options for bacterial vaginosis include oral antibiotics and vaginal gels.
  • Serious complications of bacterial vaginosis can occur during pregnancy, and recurrence is possible even after successful treatment.

What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is vaginal condition that can produce vaginal discharge and results from an overgrowth of unusual bacteria in the vagina. In the past, the condition was called Gardnerella vaginitis, after the bacteria that were thought to cause the condition. However, the newer name, bacterial vaginosis, reflects the fact that there are a number of species of bacteria that naturally live in the vaginal area and may grow to excess. The Gardnerella organism is not the sole culprit causing the symptoms. When these multiple species of bacteria become unbalanced, a woman can have a vaginal discharge with a foul odor.

Bacterial vaginosis is not dangerous, but it can cause disturbing symptoms. Any woman with an unusual discharge should be evaluated so that more serious infections such as Chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be excluded. Symptoms may also mimic those found in yeast infections of the vagina and trichomoniasis (a sexually-transmitted infection or STD), and these conditions must also be excluded in women with vaginal symptoms.

Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition. It is the most common vaginal complaint in women of child bearing age. Studies have shown that approximately 29% of women in the U.S. are affected. Bacterial vaginosis is found in about 25% of pregnant women in the U.S. and approximately 60% of women who have a sexually-transmitted disease (STD).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2014

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