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How is Bacterial Vaginosis Diagnosed and Treated?

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Bacterial vaginosis is a type of infection caused by an imbalance of the bacteria in the vagina. Normally, there is a balance between the good bacteria (lactobacilli) and bad bacteria (anaerobes). But when the amount of anaerobes in the vagina throws off the balance, bacterial vaginosis occurs.

Symptoms such as a foul-smelling, discolored vaginal discharge and burning during urination may happen with bacterial vaginosis. However, more women have asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis. As many as 84 percent of women with the infection report not having any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diagnosing bacterial vaginosis will involve a physical examination and laboratory tests. Before starting the pelvic examination, the health care provider will ask about the woman’s medical history, including if she has a history of sexually transmitted diseases or vaginal infections.

During the pelvic examination, the health care provider will examine the woman’s external and internal genitalia. The external genitalia examination involves the woman putting her feet into stirrups to spread apart her legs, so that the health care provider can visually check for signs of infection.

To internally examine, the health care provider will put on a glove, and insert two fingers into the vagina. With her other hand, she will press down on the woman’s abdomen. This allows her to check the woman’s pelvic organs.

To test for an abnormal balance of bacteria in the vagina, the health care provider will need to take a sample of the woman’s vaginal secretion to send for laboratory tests.

Another test she may do is an acidity test. With this test, the health care provider inserts a pH test strip in the woman’s vagina, testing for how acidic her vagina is.

If the pH of her vagina is 4.5 or higher, it is an indicator of bacterial vaginosis, according to the MayoClinic.com.

Antibiotics are the medications of choice for treating bacterial vaginosis. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health noted that women may be prescribed clindamycin or metronidazole.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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