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bacterial vaginosis

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Bacterial vaginosis

Alternative Names 
Gardnerella vaginalis vaginosis

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
  • vaginal discharge
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.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 12/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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