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Bacterial Vaginosis


What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection in the vagina. It may cause vaginitis, which is irritation and inflammation of the vagina.

What causes bacterial vaginosis?

The cause of BV is not known. With BV, there is an imbalance in bacteria normally found in the vagina. Your risk for BV increases if you are sexually active. Your risk for BV also increases if you douche or have an intrauterine device (IUD).

What are the signs and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

Some women have no symptoms. You may have the following:

  • White, gray, or yellow vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal discharge that smells like fish
  • Itching or burning around the outside of your vagina

How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask if you have other health conditions. He may need to take a sample of fluid from your vagina. This will be tested for the bacteria that causes BV.

How is bacterial vaginosis treated?

Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria that cause BV. They may be given as a pill or as a cream to put in your vagina. Take or use as directed.

What are the risks of bacterial vaginosis?

If untreated, BV may spread and lead to serious infections in your uterus and fallopian tubes. This can make it more difficult to get pregnant. BV increases your risk for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV.

How can I prevent bacterial vaginosis?

  • Keep your vaginal area clean and dry: Wear underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch. Wipe from front to back after you urinate or have a bowel movement. After bathing, rinse soap from your vaginal area to decrease your risk for irritation.
  • Do not use products that cause irritation: Always use unscented tampons or sanitary pads. Do not use feminine sprays, powders, or scented tampons because they may cause irritation and increase your risk of BV. Detergents and fabric softeners may also cause irritation.
  • Do not douche: This can cause an imbalance in healthy vaginal bacteria.
  • Use latex condoms: This helps prevent another infection and keeps your partner from getting the infection.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms come back or do not improve with treatment.
  • You have vaginal bleeding that is not your monthly period.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.