Bacterial Vaginosis

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What is bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is the overgrowth or imbalance of certain bacteria within the vagina, leading in some cases to symptoms including a vaginal discharge that may be foul-smelling. Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in the US in women of childbearing age. It is found in women of all ages. Bacterial vaginosis is also common in pregnant women.

What is the cause of bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis was formerly referred to as Gardnerella vaginosis, because Gardnerella bacteria were thought to be solely responsible for the infection. It is now known that different types of bacteria can cause the condition as well.

Bacterial vaginosis is not typically considered to be a sexually-transmitted infection, because some experts feel it can occur in women who are not sexually active. However, sexual activity is a risk factor for contracting bacterial vaginosis. The exact role of sexual activity in the development of bacterial vaginosis remains unclear. For example, having new sex partners or multiple sex partners (male or female) increases a woman's risk of getting bacterial vaginosis. The use of vaginal douches and intrauterine devices for contraception also increases the risk. Recent use of antibiotics and cigarette smoking have also been associated with the development of bacterial vaginosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/18/2013

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Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment

Treatment for bacterial vaginosis consists of antibiotics. A few antibiotic remedies are routinely used and include:

  • metronidazole(Flagyl) oral pill form or by vaginal metronidazole gel(Metrogel),
  • vaginal clindamycin cream(Cleocin), or
  • tinidazole (Tindamax).

Recurrence of bacterial vaginosis is possible even after successful treatment. More than half of those treated experience recurrent symptoms within 12 months. It is unclear why so many recurrent infections develop. With recurrent symptoms, a second course of antibiotics is generally prescribed.