Many different bacteria, most from the lactobacillus family, live harmlessly in the vagina and help keep it mildly acidic. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) results when these “good” bacteria are replaced by an overgrowth of other types of bacteria such as gardnerella. (Bacterial vaginosis is also known as non-specific vaginitis; bacterial vaginitis or gardnerella.)
While no-one really knows why these levels of bacteria change, research shows that a woman is more likely to be diagnosed with BV if she’s had multiple sex partners, smokes or has an IUD.
Having gardnerella in your vagina doesn't automatically mean you have BV. In fact, up to 50% of women diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis don't have any symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of BV include:
Your doctor will do a pelvic exam to look for a white, thin coating on your vaginal walls. Then he or she will take a swab sample from your vagina. The sample will be sent to a lab for a pH test and to see if any microscopic “clue cells” (vaginal skin cells that are coated with bacteria) are visible.
Flagyl® (metronidazole) is the most effective treatment for BV. Your doctor will prescribe either pills or a cream. Anti-fungal creams and suppositories (ovules) for yeast infections don't work for bacterial vaginosis.
You must be treated if:
You might feel sick to your stomach or have diarrhea while taking Flagyl®. Other side effects include a persistent, dry metallic taste in the mouth and less vaginal lubrication.
Combining alcohol and Flagyl® will cause you to vomit. So don't drink wine, liquor or beer while taking Flagyl® or for 48 hours after finishing treatment.
If you finish your Flagyl® medication and still have symptoms, return to your doctor for more testing and treatment.
If your infection keeps recurring and is hard to treat, consider keeping a diary of your symptoms and your activities. This will help you:
You can reduce your risk of BV and keep your vagina healthy by: