bacterial vaginosis

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Vaginal discharges

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What is it?

This is a condition that affects the vagina. Certain bacteria which are present normally may be increased by as much as 1000 times the expected amount.

How does it show itself?

There is usually (but not always) a thin greyish discharge. It tends not to cause any soreness or irritation but can smell a little ‘fishy’, especially after sex or during a period. It sometimes can be confused with thrush.

Is it common?

Yes, very. It is difficult to estimate but perhaps as many as one in three women will get it at some time.

Where does it come from?

We don’t really know. Hormonal changes or the use of antibiotics may play a part. It is more common in those who are sexually active and in some people using the coil for contraception.

Can it be passed on sexually?

There is no strong evidence that this happens and therefore the condition is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease. Partners of women with bacterial vaginosis do not usually require treatment.

Can it be treated successfully?

Yes... though it may return at a later date. The doctor can prescribe an antibiotic (such as metronidazole) which is very effective. This is usually in tablet form.

Side effects?

Sometimes the medication can leave an unpleasant taste temporarily in the mouth and cause mild stomach upsets. Alcohol must be avoided during treatment.

Can bacterial vaginosis be prevented?

We are not sure.

Are there any long term risks?

Most probably not. Bacterial vaginosis is overwhelmingly a mild condition. It is easily treated. It may be involved in other conditions related to a woman’s health but more studies are needed on this.

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