What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is the most general cause of vaginal infection known as vaginitis. Normally, it is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection. It is the imbalance of naturally occurring bacterial flora that causes bacterial vaginosis.
What are the symptoms and signs?
The most common sign is an unusual vaginal discharge—especially after having sex—which has an unpleasant, fishy smell. Some women don't experience any symptoms, while many other experience intense swelling, itching and irritation (often misdiagnosed by the patient or even by a health practitioner asa yeast infection), and stomach pains, which feel like severe cramps. By contrast, a normal discharge should be odourless and will vary in amount and consistency with the menstrual cycle.
What causes bacterial vaginosis?
Normally, a healthy vagina should contain many microorganisms; Lactobacillus crispate and Lactobacillus jensenii are the common ones. The microorganisms involved in bacterial vaginosis are very diverse. Reduction of lactobacillus and any other changes in normal bacterial flora through the use of antibiotics, pH imbalance, or for other reasons, let the more resistant bacteria multiply and gain a foothold.
There are a variety of factors that can lead to bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis is more common in sexually active women ranging in age from 15 to 44; it is especially common after women change to a new sex partner.
Although bacterial vaginosis might be related to sexual activity, there is no strong evidence of sexual transmission. Virgins can become infected with bacterial vaginosis.
Women with sexually transmitted infections and pregnant women are more at risk. Sometimes Bacterial vaginosis affects women after menopause. A study has shown subclinical anemia the iron shortage is a strong cause of bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women. Also it's proven there is a link between bacterial vaginosis and psychosocial stress.
There is a theory mentioning that sexual exchange of vaginal secretions during sex between women is one possible means of contracting bacterial vaginosis.
In young girls, strep or bacteria from the anus as a result of failing to wipe following a bowel movement may cause bacterial vaginosis.
What are the treatments?
Since bacterial vaginosis is caused by bacteria, treatment usually involves antibiotics. Not many antibiotics are used routinely. Metronidazole (Flagyl) is a very effective antibiotic when taken either orally (pill) or in the form of a vaginal metronidazole gel (Metrogel). The vaginal clindamycin cream (Cleocin) is also available.
The oral metronidazole is believed to be the best and most effective treatment but it may cause minor and unpleasant side effects. Typically, the gel does not cause side effects, but yeast vaginitis can occur as a side effect of the medication.
If you are looking for an antibiotic with fewer side effects, consider tinidazole, an antibiotic that appears to have fewer side effects compared with metronidazole and that is effective in treating bacterial vaginosis.
There exists the possibility that bacterial vaginosis may recur, even following a successful treatment. Recurrence develops in more than half of patients treated within 12 months of developing vaginosis, although the reason is unclear. When recurrent symptoms develop, a second course of antibiotic treatment is recommended.
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About the Author:
Dr. James S. Pendergraft, board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine and high-risk pregnancies, opened the Orlando Women's Center Abortion Clinic in March 1996 to provide a full range of health care for women, including second and late term abortions, physical examinations, family planning, counseling, laboratory services and sexually transmitted disease screening and counseling. To learn more, visit www.womenscenter.com.