Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age. It is sometimes accompanied by discharge, odor, pain, itching, or burning.
Not much is known about how women get BV. There are many unanswered questions about the role that harmful bacteria play in causing BV. Any woman can get BV. However, some activities or behaviors can upset the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina and put women at increased risk including:
It is not clear what role sexual activity plays in the development of BV. Women do not get BV from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools, or from touching objects around them. Women that have never had sexual intercourse are rarely affected.
The bacteria that cause BV can sometimes infect the uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus). This type of infection is called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause infertility or damage the fallopian tubes enough to increase the future risk of ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition in which a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube which can rupture.
Treatment is especially important for pregnant women. All pregnant women, regardless of symptoms, who have ever had a premature delivery or low birth weight baby should be considered for a BV examination and be treated when necessary. All pregnant women who have symptoms of BV should be checked and treated.
Some physicians recommend treating all women for BV, regardless of symptoms, prior to surgery for hysterectomies or abortion to reduce their risk of developing PID.
BV is treatable with antimicrobial medicines prescribed by a health care provider. Two different antibiotics are recommended as treatment for BV: metronidazole or clindamycin. Either can be used with non-pregnant or pregnant women, but the recommended dosages differ. Women with BV who are HIV-positive should receive the same treatment as those who are HIV-negative. BV can recur after treatment.
The following basic prevention steps can help reduce the risk of upsetting the natural balance in the vagina and developing Bacterial Vaginosis:
If you think you may have a sexually transmitted disease, you should see a physician immediately to be properly diagnosed and treated. You should not try to diagnose or treat symptoms on your own.
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