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Category: Gynecology

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Bacterial vaginosis overview

Published: July 16, 2009. Updated: August 09, 2009

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the commonest cause of vaginal infection (vaginitis). The commonest symptom of BV is an abnormal vaginal discharge with an unpleasant fishy smell. However, half of all women with BV don't notice any symptoms.

A healthy vagina normally contains many microorganisms, the most common being Lactobacillus acidophilus. Lactobacillus appears to help prevent other vaginal microorganisms from multiplying to a level where they cause symptoms. The microorganisms involved in BV include Gardnerella vaginalis, Mobiluncus, Bacteroides, and Mycoplasma. For reasons not well understood, the numbers of these organisms increase with BV while the number of lactobacillus organisms decreases.

Most cases of bacterial vaginosis occur in sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 44, especially after contact with a new partner. Condoms do not appear to provide protection, but use of spermicides increases BV risk somewhat. Although BV appears to be associated with and triggered by sexual intercourse, it does not appear to be transmitted from one partner to another. Rather, it is a disordering of the chemical and biological balance of the individual's populations of microflora. Pregnant women and women with a sexually transmitted disease are especially at risk for getting this infection. Bacterial vaginosis does not usually affect women after menopause.

Untreated bacterial vaginosis can cause pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause fatal complications of pregnancy, premature delivery and low birth weight of infants.

Bacterial vaginosis can be cured by antibiotics.


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