Sunday, May 20, 2007

Understanding Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection of American women. Also known as Gardnerella-associated Vaginitis or just Vaginitis, the condition results from an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina.

If you have Bacterial Vaginosis, you might notice signs like discharge, odor, itching, burning or pain. Women suffering from Bacterial Vaginosis often notice a strong fishy or unpleasant musky odor particularly after sexual intercourse. Additionally, you may notice more discharge than normal, and the discharge can be thin and of a white or gray color. Many women with the infection feel itching or irritation. However, some women don't have any signs of Bacterial Vaginosis at all. In fact, experts say that more than 50 percent of women with Bacterial Vaginosis have no symptoms at all.

Though Bacterial Vaginosis is listed as a sexually transmitted disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is considered a mild infection and the actual cause of the disease is not known. Though you can't catch it from someone, women who have not had sex are rarely affected by Bacterial Vaginosis. However, women with multiple sex partners or are currently with a new sex partner are more likely to develop the infection.

To understand how Bacterial Vaginosis might occur, one needs to understand how the natural flora function in the vagina. In the vagina, there is a greater balance of what's considered to be good bacteria. These bacteria are of the same type that you might eat in yogurt--lactobacilli. Also present are the bad bacteria, but the good bacteria keep them in balance. When Bacterial Vaginosis occurs, the balance of power shifts toward the bad bacteria as they overtake the natural good bacteria flora.

If you think you have Bacterial Vaginosis, you must seek treatment from your doctor. If the infection is left untreated, it can spread up into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause a more serious infection. For pregnant women, treatment is especially important because the infection can travel up into the uterus.

Diagnosis is made by your doctor by both physical exam and laboratory test. On the physical exam, the doctor can observe the irritation and discharge as well as smell the odor. The laboratory test will determine the presence of the bad bacteria, Gardnerella, and the lack of lactobacilli, the good bacteria.

Treatment includes an antibiotic regimen taken either orally or vaginally and may include Ampicillin, Ceftriaxone, Clindamycin, Tetracycline or Metronidazole.