Bacterial vaginosis accounts for close to half of all infections involving the vulva and the vagina. It is caused by an imbalance of bacterial flora in the vagina. This simply means that certain bacteria have multiplied and taken over, resulting in an infection. The infection itself is benign and many women do not experience any symptoms. It is important to treat the infection however, since it can increase one's risk of developing other genital diseases that could be more damaging. Furthermore, when symptoms do occur, they can be very uncomfortable. Pregnant women should pay special attention to any vaginal infection as an infection during pregnancy could lead to premature delivery and more serious infections for both the mother and child.
An imbalance of the vaginal flora can be caused by:
- Changing partners or having several partners;
- Using an IUD for contraception;
- Douching or using other scented feminine hygiene products.
Bacterial vaginosis may be asymptomatic, meaning that there are no symptoms. When symptoms are present however, abnormal and foul smelling discharge, itchiness and irritation are the most common symptoms. Women who have had this infection often report a strong "fish-like" odour to their discharge. Unlike vaginitis, bacterial vaginosis does not cause an inflammation of the vaginal tissue.
Bacterial vaginosis is diagnosed by a physician or a gynaecologist who will conduct an examination and take a sample to be analysed in a lab.
The treatment for bacterial vaginosis is quite simple. It involves oral antibiotics or more local treatments with creams or vaginally inserted capsules. Generally speaking, the sexual partner does not require treatment.