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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common condition affecting women. It can be effectively treated with metronidazole tablets, metronidazole gel or clindamycin cream.
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Bacterial vaginosis is also called vaginal bacteriosis. It is a very common cause of vaginal infection in women.
Most cases of vaginal bacteriosis develop after a woman has had sexual intercourse with a new partner. It rarely occurs in non-sexually active women.
Bacterial vaginosis increases a person’s risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. It is important to note, though, that bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection on its own.
This vaginal infection usually affects women between 15 and 44 years of age.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), at least 1 in 3 women in the UK may have bacterial vaginosis at some point. Over 60% of these women think that it is thrush, and may decide to take some over-the-counter medicines. The thing is, these medications don’t work, which is why you should see your GP if you experience the symptoms.
The primary cause of bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance in the bacterial flora that occurs in a woman’s vagina. Every woman has bacterial flora in her vagina. However, doctors don’t fully understand why the imbalance occurs.
Bacterial vaginosis is different from yeast infection. Another name for yeast infection is candidiasis.
You see, we have bacteria on all parts of our body. Some of these bacteria are beneficial to the body while others cause harm. When you have an excess of harmful bacteria, you stand a chance of developing health conditions.
Most of the bacteria in a woman’s vagina are the “good” bacteria. But there are also some harmful ones. Bacterial vaginosis develops when a woman has too many harmful bacteria.
The major bacteria in the vagina are called lactobacilli. Lactobacilli produces lactic acid, which causes a slight increase in the acidity of the vagina. Lactic acid also prevents the growth of other bacteria.
When lactobacilli fall to a low level, the vagina becomes less acidic. Thus, other harmful bacteria now have a convenient environment to thrive.
Factors that increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis
No woman is exempted from bacterial vaginosis. Any woman can develop it. However, some factors can increase your risk of developing this condition.
These risk factors include:
- Douching, or cleaning your vagina with a medicated solution or with water.
- Having many sex partners
- Having a new sex partner
- Bathing with antiseptic liquids
- Using vaginal deodorants, perfumed bubble baths, and scented soaps
It is important to note that you cannot contract bacterial vaginosis from swimming pools, bedding, toilet seats, or by touching certain objects.
Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection. It causes an unusual discharge from the vagina.
A 2020 study states that bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection. According to the author of this study, bacteria are the main cause of bacterial vaginosis.
Bacterial vaginosis usually resolves without treatment. But if you notice the symptoms, then you should treat them to avoid complications.
If you have an abnormal discharge from your vagina, then see your GP without delay. Your GP can diagnose this condition, and rule out other infections, like trich or gonorrhoea.
If bacterial vaginosis is left untreated, it may trigger complications, mostly during pregnancy.
Many health facilities recommend giving bacterial vaginosis treatment to women who are due for a hysterectomy.
Treatment is usually not necessary for male partners, but they can spread it between female partners.
Sometimes, this condition presents without symptoms. But if they occur, then the symptoms will include itching, burning, and discharge from the vagina.
The discharge from the vagina may have a white or grey colour, or it may be thin and watery. It will also have a somewhat fishy and very unpleasant smell.
Less common symptoms include:
- Vaginal itch (on the outside of the vagina)
- A burning sensation when urinating
To diagnose this condition, your GP will inquire about your symptoms. He or she may also conduct a physical examination. Most importantly, they will look out for a discharge from your vagina, usually grey or white and thin, and also for an unpleasant smell.
If you are sexually active, they will order some diagnostic tests for STI’s. Samples will be collected from the wall of your vagina with a small plastic loop or a swab. Your GP may also measure your vaginal pH balance to assess the level of acidity.
Complications of bacterial vaginosis include a high risk of:
- HIV infection
- Sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia, herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, and gonorrhea.
Bacterial vaginosis can also cause complications during pregnancy. Common pregnancy complications include:
- Loss of pregnancy
- Early delivery or preterm delivery
- Early breaking of the amniotic sac
- Inflammation of the lining of the uterus (womb) after delivery. This condition is called postpartum endometritis.
- Inflammation of the membranes that surround the fetus (unborn baby). These membranes are called the amnion and the chorion. The inflammation is known as chorioamnionitis.
Most cases of bacterial vaginosis can be resolved with antibiotics. According to a 2018 update, 90% of cases can be resolved with antibiotics.
The primary antibiotic for bacterial vaginosis is metronidazole. It is available in tablet and gel forms.
Metronidazole should not be taken with alcohol. You should avoid alcohol for at least 48 hours after taking metronidazole.
Clindamycin is another drug that can be used to treat bacterial vaginosis. It can be used if there is an infection.
Tinidazole is another antibiotic that treats bacterial vaginosis. You should also avoid complications when taking this drug.
There is no recommended over-the-counter medication for antibiotics. A recommended home remedy is taking probiotics, but since bacterial vaginosis can lead to serious complications, you must see your GP once you notice the symptoms.
There is no precise preventive tip for bacterial vaginosis because the causes are not fully understood. However, some preventive tips that may help include:
- Avoiding douching
- Practicing safe sex
You must consult your GP for guidance on how to manage your bacterial vaginosis.
AccessDoctor offers medically proven bacterial vaginosis treatments. Access Doctor offers online consultations for bacterial vaginosis. We have well-trained UK doctors in our employ who are willing to help you.
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