Bacterial Vaginosis: Fast Facts About STDs

Bacterial Vaginosis, also known as Vaginitis or Gardnerella vaginalis.

Type of Disease or Infection
Bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Gardnerella vaginalis, Gardneralla mobiluncus, and Mycoplasma hominis.

How Common Is It?
Because individuals are frequently asymptomatic, the true infection rate is difficult to determine; however, an estimated 40% of women seen at STD clinics are infected.

How Do I Get It?
Gardnerella is transmitted through sexual contact. BV can be caused by a change in the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina, which allows for the overgrowth of other bacteria. The natural bacterial balance can be disrupted by douching, use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, or use of some types of birth control devices (e.g., IUDs, contraceptive sponge, Nonoxynol-9 or diaphragms).

Although frequently showing no signs of infection, those women who develop symptoms may have an unpleasant-smelling and frothy greenish or grayish sticky discharge, irritation, and itching. Men are typically asymptomatic but have been shown to be the primary cause of infection to others. Symptoms usually appear in 2 to 28 days.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have It?
See your clinician or physician immediately for a microscopic examination of the discharge.

How Do I Get Rid of It?
Your physician will prescribe a dose of metronidazole, otherwise known as Flagyl, a drug that may be risky for pregnant women to take (in which case clindamycin can be given instead) and must not be taken with alcohol.

What Happens If I Don't Treat It?
Women who have been infected are more than twice as likely to develop tubal adhesions that may lead to infertility. BV is associated with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, ectopic pregnancy, premature birth, and low birth weight in infants born to infected mothers. Men may develop urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) as well as inflammation of the foreskin or glans.

Who Should I Tell?
If you have Bacterial Vaginosis, you should tell any current or very recent partners (i.e., people you had sexual contact with over the last month). Once the disease has been successfully treated, you do not need to tell future partners.