Definition Bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of a normal vaginal organism in the absence of inflammation.
What is going on in the body? Bacterial vaginosis appears to be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. While these bacteria are normally present in the vagina, an overgrowth may cause symptoms of irritation and inflammation.
What are the signs and symptoms of the disease? Symptoms of this condition can include:
a fishy or ammonia-like odour, especially after sexual intercourse
vaginal itching, burning, or irritation
pain with intercourse
What are the causes and risks of the disease? It can be caused by a variety of processes which alter the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis that is left untreated or undiagnosed may cause more problems. For instance:
there is an associated increased risk of post-operative infection
There is an associated risk of premature rupture of the membranes in pregnancy
What can be done to prevent the disease? It is not known how to prevent this condition. It is possible that abstinence or using condoms may help.
How is the disease diagnosed? A doctor will perform a pelvic examination to obtain a sample of the vaginal discharge and look at it under the microscope. The presence of special "clue cells" in the vaginal discharge, suggest bacterial vaginosis.
What are the risks to others? It is possible that this infection is increased by sexual intercourse.
What are the treatments for the disease? The antibiotic metronidazole is used to treat this type of vaginitis. It is available in orals pills or as a cream that is applied to the inside of the vagina. It is usually taken for 5 to 7 days. The sexual partner may be treated, depending on the number of previous infections.
What are the side effects of the treatments? The side effects of metronidazole can include:
a metallic taste in the mouth
ringing in the ears
stomach upset if alcohol is ingested at the same time
What happens after treatment for the disease? After beginning treatment, symptoms usually go away within a few days. The infection recurs in 15% of women despite attempts at prevention and multiple treatment regimens.
Author: Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr John Hearne Last Updated: 12/06/2005 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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