Bacterial vaginosis or BV (formerly known as non-specific vaginitis, Gardnerella vaginitis, or Haemophilus vaginitis) is a common vaginal condition. It is thought to be caused by an overgrowth of Gardnerella vaginalis and certain other bacteria often found in the vaginal fluid.
Most women with this problem will complain of an increased amount of vaginal discharge. It is usually thin and watery, and white or grayish in color. Commonly, the discharge has a foul, unpleasant odor. The odor is often stronger after sexual intercourse. Mild vaginal itching or irritation may occur due to increased moisture accumulating in the genitals. These symptoms may be similar to a yeast or a Trichomonas infection. As the symptoms may be mild or intermittent, many women will have the condition for weeks or months before seeking advice. Bacterial vaginosis does not cause pelvic pain, unusual bleeding, or fever.
The diagnosis is made in the clinic on the basis of the appearance and microscopic examination of the vaginal discharge.
Usually only women with symptoms require treatment. Sometimes it resolves spontaneously. When treatment is indicated, studies show the most effective treatment is the oral antimicrobial drug metronidazole or vaginal metronidazole or clindamycin. One should not drink alcoholic beverages while taking metronidazole as even small amounts of alcohol may cause abdominal distress, nausea, vomiting, flushing or headaches. Loose clothing, cotton underwear and good hygiene help reduce the irritating moisture. Even with effective treatment, recurrences are common.
In the woman who is not pregnant, there is no evidence that BV is harmful in any way except for the symptoms. However, if a pregnant woman has untreated BV, her risk of delivering a premature, low birth weight infant increases by 40%. If a woman with BV chooses to have an abortion, her BV should be treated prior to the procedure, or she will be at risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) after the abortion.
There are a number of theories but this can't be answered for certain right now. Many women (one study showed 40 - 50%) normally carry these bacteria in the vagina in small numbers without any problems. Under certain conditions as yet undefined, the organisms multiply and then cause the annoying discharge and odor. At this time, there is no evidence that the condition is sexually transmitted. Males do not get symptoms. Studies show that treatment of male partners has no effect on treatment outcome for the female.
If you have any questions, you may call the consulting nurse service for further information.