The most common cause of vaginal infection is bacterial vaginosis also known as vaginal bacteriosis. The cause of bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of the wrong types of bacteria in the vagina. Vaginosis has symptoms that can be confused with a yeast infection. To determine if you indeed have bacterial vaginosis there are three steps your medical professional will use.
- Testing the smell of vaginal fluids for a typical “fishy” odor.
- Testing the pH for an overly alkaline environment. A normal vagina will have a pH between 3.8 and 4.2. A pH over 4.5 gives the bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis a better environment to thrive in
- The presence of clue cells, epithelial cells with bacteria on them. Thus these cells act as “clues” to help determine the correct diagnosis.
A vagina that has a normal bacterial microbiota contains several strains of Lactobacillus: Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus jensenii. The more helpful bacteria thrive in the vagina, the less capable pathogenic bacteria will survive. The reason for this is quite simple: the good bacteria use up the resources in the environment; making these resources unavailable for the bacteria responsible for bacterial vaginosis. Additionally, some species of good bacteria Lactobacillus produce hydrogen peroxide which helps to regulate the breeding of unwanted bacteria.
There can be several different causes for bacterial vaginosis; typically sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 44. There is no certain evidence that shows bacterial vaginosis to be a sexually transmitted disease as virgins can also become infected and suffer from bacterial vaginosis. Whatever causes the normal levels of good bacteria in the vagina is a real cause of bacterial vaginosis.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Approximately 85% of all women who are affected by bacterial vaginosis do not have any symptoms. The most typical symptoms of bacterial vaginosis is a strong “fishy” odor and unusual vaginal discharges. The discharge brought on by bacterial vaginosis is typically grayish white fluid. Typically the discharge can be more visible after sexual intercourse. Discharges vary between women; therefore observances of discharge must base the peculiarity of such discharge to what each woman would consider normal for her.
Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis
There is still some ambiguity as to the direct causes of bacterial vaginosis. Currently there appears to be a few distinct causes. Primarily, one necessity of the condition appears to be the presence of several different bacteria in the vagina. Most notably, the lack of hydrogen peroxide producing bacteria is one factor. Additionally the presence of anaerobic bacteria is directly related to bacterial vaginosis developing. How the various bacteria combine to form an infection is not known.
There are external factors that can play a role in developing an infection of bacterial vaginosis. Intrauterine means of contraception, usage of antibiotic medication, intercourse with many or new sexual partners, cigarette smoking, and using a douche in the vagina. The relationship between sexual intercourse and bacterial vaginosis is still unknown as virgins can also conduct bacterial vaginosis.
Is Bacterial Vaginosis contagious?
The fact that a woman's risk for infection increases when sexual intercourse occurs with multiple partners suggest that there is some relationship between sexual intercourse and the spread of culprit bacteria. Sexual intercourse therefore may upset the regular levels of bacteria in the vagina and possibly cause bacterial vaginosis. Yet because women who do not have sex still contract bacterial vaginosis there are certainly other factors which are responsible.
How is Bacterial Vaginosis Treated?
The antibiotics clindamycin or metronidazole taken orally or vaginally are one possible treatment. The use of the antibiotics clindamycin or metronidazole often stop bacterial vaginosis but there is still a higher rate of recurrence. Metronidazole has been shown to have some unpleasant side effects but is still considered to be the best way to treat an infection.
In addition to metronidazole, tinidazole is another antibiotic that has been shown to have few side effects and is capable of curing an infection of bacterial vaginosis. Still, recurrence is typical; over 50% of those treated had another infection of bacterial vaginosis within one year. There is no known reason why recurrent attacks occur.
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