Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal inflammatory condition that is caused by an imbalance of the natural bacteria that reside in the female reproductive organ. Women who suffer from the condition experience a vaginal discharge that is produced by atypical bacteria in the vagina. The condition is not dangerous, even though it can cause disturbing symptoms such as vaginal odor and an abnormal discharge. An important aspect of diagnosis involves the elimination of vaginal infections that have symptoms similar to those of bacterial vaginosis. Treatment includes medications and vaginal gels.
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Causes and Risk Factors
Researchers have not yet identified the specific cause of bacterial vaginosis. However, they have attributed it to an imbalance of natural bacteria in the vagina due to a reduction in the number of hydrogen-peroxide producing lactobacilli (Acton, 2013). Moreover, there is a multiplication of anaerobic bacteria. Researchers have identified several factors that increase the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis. They include vaginal douching, intrauterine devices for birth control, multiple or new sex partners, cigarette smoking, recent use of antibiotics, and the natural lack of lactobacilli bacteria (Hungerford, 2014). The role of sexual activity in the development of bacterial vaginosis is not yet fully understood.
Signs and Symptoms
In certain cases, bacterial vaginosis is difficult to diagnose because it does not show any signs or symptoms. However, when present, they manifest in different ways. They include internal and external vaginal itching, burning during urination, a gray or green vaginal discharge, and a bad vaginal odor (Acton, 2013).
The diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis is conducted through the use of Amsel’s Diagnostic Criteria or Gram stain (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). A physician also performs a pelvic examination to look for signs of infection. A Gram stain determines the concentration of lactobacilli in the vagina (Acton, 2013). For the clinical criteria diagnosis to be successful, certain signs or symptoms must be present. These include the presence of clue cells, vaginal discharge with a fishy odor, a homogenous white discharge, and a pH of more than 4.5 for the vaginal fluid. In certain cases, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is used to detect certain organisms that are associated with bacterial vaginosis. However, its efficacy has not yet been determined. Cervical Pap tests are not used because of their low specificity and sensitivity.
The use of medications is the most preferred treatment method for bacterial vaginosis. Common drugs used include metronidazole, clindamycin, and tinidazole (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Abstinence or the use of condoms during a treatment regimen is recommended for the medication to be effective. Lactobacillus colonization therapy is a home-based treatment method that involves the consumption of certain foods to boost the number of good bacteria in the vagina (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Examples of these foods include garlic and yogurt. Research studies are underway to determine the effectiveness of probiotic therapy in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis.
Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal condition that is characterized by an abnormal vaginal discharge that has a bad odor. It is caused by an imbalance of the naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina. The proliferation of anaerobic bacteria produces a white or gray discharge, a bad odor, vaginal itching, and a burning sensation during urination. Diagnosis includes a pelvic examination and laboratory testing of vaginal secretions. Proper treatment includes prescription of medications and vaginal gels. Physicians recommend abstinence or use of condoms during a treatment regimen.
Acton, Q. A. (2013). Bacterial vaginosis: New insights for the healthcare professional. Atlanta, GA: ScholarlyEditions.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). 2015 sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines: Bacterial vaginosis. Web.
Hungerford, E. (2014). Cure bacterial vaginosis now: 3 days to freedom, freshness, & femininity. New York, NY: LiveNatural Press.