Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vulva and vagina. It is associated with an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.
A mix of healthy and unhealthy bacteria is normally found in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an increase in the amount of unhealthy bacteria. The increase causes a decrease in good bacteria. This imbalance can lead to symptoms.
It is not clear exactly what causes the increase in unhealthy bacteria.
Factors that may increase your chance of bacterial vaginosis include:
Any woman can get bacterial vaginosis, including those who have never had sex.
Some women with bacterial vaginosis do not have any symptoms.
Symptoms that can develop include:
There are several different conditions that can cause these symptoms. Your doctor will help you determine the cause of your symptoms.
You will be asked about your symptoms, and medical and sexual history. A physical exam will be done. This will include a pelvic exam.
Fluid from your vagina may be tested to look for specific bacteria or other infectious agents.
Bacterial vaginosis can lead to complications such as an increased risk of:
The main course of treatment is prescription antibiotic pills or vaginal creams. Finish all medication as prescribed by your doctor even if the symptoms have gone away. This can prevent the infection from recurring.
Avoid sexual intercourse during treatment. If you do have sexual intercourse, use condoms. Usually, male sexual partners do not need to be treated. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
Sexuality and U—The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Updated June 4, 2015. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Bacterial vaginosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/BV/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm. Updated February 16, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Bacterial vaginosis. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bacterial-vaginosis.html. Updated April 18, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115494/Bacterial-vaginosis-BV. Updated September 26, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
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7/7/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115494/Bacterial-vaginosis-BV: Qaseem A, Humphrey LL, Harris R, et al. Screening pelvic examination in adult women: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(1):67-72.
Last reviewed December 2017 by Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.