Bacterial Vaginosis (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

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Many women with bacterial vaginosis actually have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, vaginal discharge and odor are the predominant symptoms. Usually, there are no other symptoms. The amount of vaginal discharge that is considered normal varies from woman to woman. Therefore, any degree of vaginal discharge that is abnormal for a particular woman should be evaluated.

Some women may experience an unpleasant fishy odor with vaginal discharge. The discharge is usually thin and grayish white. The discharge and odor are often more noticeable after sexual intercourse.

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

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Researchers have had difficulty determining exactly what causes bacterial vaginosis. At present, it seems to be that a combination of multiple bacteria must be present together for the problem to develop. Bacterial vaginosis typically features a reduction in the number of the normal hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli in the vagina. Simultaneously, there is an increase in concentration of other types of bacteria, especially anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that grow in the absence of oxygen). As a result, the diagnosis and treatment are not as simple as identifying and eradicating a single type of bacteria. Why the bacteria combine to cause the infection is unknown.

Certain factors have been identified that increase the chances of developing bacterial vaginosis. These include multiple or new sexual partners, intrauterine devices for contraception, recent antibiotic use, vaginal douching, and cigarette smoking. However, the role of sexual activity in the development of the condition is not fully understood, and although most experts believe that bacterial vaginosis does not occur in women who have not had sexual intercourse, others feel that the condition can still develop in women who have not had sexual intercourse.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2014

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