Bacterial vaginosis, or vaginal bacteriosis, is the most common cause of foul-smelling, unusual vaginal discharge which occurs due to overgrowth of certain bacteria within the vagina. Although it is not a sexually transmitted infection, it may develop after sexual intercourse. It may occur in women of all ages, including pregnant women and those who are not sexually active. Bacterial vaginosis, if left untreated, may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and other serious complications.
Causes of bacterial vaginosis
The vagina mostly comprises good bacteria and few harmful bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the harmful bacteria outnumber the good ones. The vagina also harbours bacteria called lactobacilli, which makes the vagina slightly acidic by producing lactic acid. This prevents other bacteria from growing there. Following are some of the causes that may lead to this condition:
- Use of perfumed bubble bath
- Use of vaginal sprays or deodorants
- Use of IUD (intrauterine device)
- Washing the underwear using strong detergents
- Use of antiseptic liquids in the bath
- Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle
- Having sex without a condom
- Genetic factors
- Having multiple sex partners
Signs and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis
Although the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are so mild that most of the women are unaware of being infected by it, some of the common signs or symptoms indicative of this vaginal infection are:
- Unusual vaginal discharge with an offensive odour
- White or grey thin vaginal discharge
- A strong fish-like odour after sexual intercourse
- Itchiness or soreness around the vagina and vulva
- Painful and burning sensation while urinating
Diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis
The gynaecologist may ask the affected woman some questions related to infection, like presence of other symptoms such as fever, pelvic pain, or history of any sexually transmitted infections. The doctor may perform a pelvic exam to analyse the vaginal lining and cervix. He/She may also perform a manual exam of the ovaries and uterus to evaluate the severity of the condition. In order to differentiate bacterial vaginosis from other vaginal infections, the doctor may examine vaginal discharge under microscope to detect presence of a vaginal cell called clue cell. This examination is particularly beneficial in detecting the number of ‘good’ bacteria, called lactobacilli in the vagina, and the vaginal pH. If there are few ‘good’ vaginal bacteria and the pH is greater than 4.5, the person is diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis.
Treatment of bacterial vaginosis
Garlic is one of the best natural cures for this condition. It has excellent antibacterial qualities. Allium is the compound found in garlic that keeps infections at bay. The dosage should be taken according to the instructions given by a gynaecologist.
Another remedy is coneflower. The root of this herb is very effective in purifying the blood and enhancing the immune system to keep infections at bay.
A herb called tracheal helps flush toxins including bacteria out of the body. Soak a teaspoon of dried tracheal in a cup of hot water and have this before bedtime.
Golden seal is another herb that boosts the immune system and fights off candida fungus, and bacteria found in vaginal mucous membrane.
Apart from these, vinegar, tea tree oil, and colloidal silver have also been proven to be effective. For maintaining the acid balance of vagina, acidophilus pills too can be a useful remedy.
Antibiotics like metronidazole in the form of a pill or cream can be effective. Trinidazole too serves the same purpose, albeit with fewer side effects. These antibiotics will start working immediately, and you might see some symptoms disappearing however, it is absolutely essential to complete the dosage.
If the infection is recurring, then making use of antibiotics is the best option. It is always better to prevent this condition by maintaining proper hygiene, avoiding tight clothing, and by having safe sex.