Bacterial vaginosis is also referred to as Gardnerella or BV. Bacterial vaginosis is a very common disease characterized by bacterial overgrowth in your vagina. Every year in the United States, around 3 million cases of bacterial vaginosis are diagnosed.
Researchers are unsure of the direct cause of bacterial vaginosis, and there are a lot of myths floating around about the cause of BV. Such myths include:
- Coming into Contact with an Infected Person
- Failing to Dry Thoroughly After a Bath
- Soaking in the Tub for Too Long
- Sitting on Wet Sand at the Beach
- Touching an Object After an Infected Person
- Using a Toilet Seat After an Infected Person
What the medical community is sure of (concerning the causes of bacterial vaginosis), is as follows:
- Bacteria – A combination of many bacteria must be present in your vagina for this problem to develop.
- Increase in Anaerobic Bacteria – Bacteria that grows in the absence of oxygen.
- Lactobacilli Reduction – A reduction in the number of normal hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli in your vagina.
Some factors have been known to increase your chances of developing bacterial vaginosis. These factors are:
- Antibiotic Use – If you were recently prescribed with antibiotics, there is a possibility that both the bad bacteria and the good bacteria in your uterus has been eradicated, leaving you vulnerable to vaginal infections such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
- Cigarette Smoking – There is much evidence that smoking tobacco and exposure to tobacco smoke is known to make you more susceptible to chronic disease, condition, and infection than a non-smoker.
- IUD’s (Intrauterine Devices) – devices inserted into your uterus for long-term contraceptive purposes can introduce new bacteria into your uterus.
- Multiple or New Sexual Partners
- Personal Hygiene – Incorrect personal hygiene can cause bacterial vaginosis. Avoiding improper wiping after bowel movements, wearing panties or jeans that are too tight, wearing thongs will lessen your chance of infection. Getting into the habit of washing your genitals right away after sexual intercourse will reduce your chances of sexually transmitted bacteria and infection that can lead to bacterial vaginosis.
- Vaginal Douching – Much like antibiotics, douching upsets your vagina’s natural balance of bacteria, or vaginal flora. The evidence shows that women who stop douching are less likely to develop bacterial vaginosis.
Diagnosing Bacterial Vaginosis
To diagnose your bacterial vaginosis, your physician will rely on three sources of information:
- Microscopic Examination – Your physician will examine samples of your vaginal discharge under a microscope to check for the specific range of bacteria present in a case of BV.
- Patient History – Your doctor will ask you if you have experienced vulvar irritation, an increase in your vaginal discharge, and a disturbing odor coming from your vagina.
- Vaginal Examination – Your doctor will examine your vagina and your discharge for typical characteristics of bacterial vaginosis. If you have bacterial vaginosis, your discharge will be thin and gray or white colored and accompanied by a fish-like odor that usually becomes worse after intercourse. Your doctor will also check your vulva for inflammation. Bacterial vaginosis is usually not accompanied by vulvar inflammation, which will help your doctor distinguish it from a yeast infection.
Male partners are not affected by symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. Females can transfer bacterial vaginosis between other female sex partners.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Certain specific symptoms accompany bacterial vaginosis. Although not all of these symptoms occur in each case of bacterial vaginosis, if some of these apply to you, you may consider discussing them with your doctor or gynecologist. These symptoms are:
- Burning Sensation – Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t generally cause pain, but some women experience a burning sensation while urinating.
- Itchiness – Bacterial vaginosis may be accompanied by mild itchiness that may worsen after washing the vagina with soap.
- No Symptoms – Some women with bacterial vaginosis experience no symptoms or signs Make sure you get regular pap smears (even if you don’t have symptoms) that check the level of bacteria or possible infection in your vagina.
- Bacterial Vaginosis – If your vaginal discharge indicates bacterial vaginosis it will be a grey or white color with a fish-like odor that worsens after sex.
Preventing Bacterial Vaginosis
- Limit the Number of Sexual Partners
- Practice Abstinence
- Refrain from Douching
There are two main branches of treatment used to cure bacterial vaginosis:
- Diet Change – Food is medicine. Yeast and bacteria thrive in foods like cheese, sugar, fruit, chocolate, and vinegar. Food that contains these should be wholly avoided if you have bacterial vaginosis.
- Physician Treatment – This treatment relies on consultation of your symptoms by a physician who will then prescribe you with antibiotics. However, antibiotics can have adverse side effects, and can remove the positive as well as the negative flora in your vagina. Additionally, bacterial vaginosis can always come back again after treatments.
- Natural Treatment – Home remedies for bacterial vaginosis focus on rebalancing your vaginal bacteria. Once your vaginal flora is rebalanced, you are not likely to relapse into BV again. There are many examples of natural cures for BV.
- Vinegar Water Douche – Homemade natural douches include a tablespoon of vinegar added to a quart of warm water. Vinegar is a natural, non-toxic antimicrobial substance, unlike douches which contain phthalates, a chemical found in scented personal grooming products like perfume, nail polish, hair products, and (it’s unclear why) certain meats and dairy products.
- Vitamins – Taking vitamins B complex, A, C, D, and E are very effective in treating BV. Applying vitamin E cream around your affected vaginal area can help soothe the mild itch of BV.
Treating bacterial vaginosis right away is known to reduce your risk of contracting STDs. BV starts out as harmless, but in some cases, it can lead to serious complications. Call your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of bacterial vaginosis.
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