An imbalance in the normal flora of the vagina results in a condition known as bacterial vaginitis (BV). Typically, the “good” bacteria and the pathogenic or “bad” bacteria of the vagina are in balance, with the former outnumbering and keeping in check the growth of the latter. This helps maintain the pH of the vagina. When bacterial vaginosis occurs, the pathogenic bacteria increase in number causing an infection.
BV commonly causes thin grey or white vaginal discharge with an unpleasant smell (commonly a “fishy” odor) as well as burning or itching in the vaginal area. Since the pH is increased during BV, the pathogenic bacteria find favorable conditions to thrive in; therefore, it is essential to curb the growth of the bad bacteria and prevent the worsening of the infection.
A disruption of the pH of the vagina leads to many different infections in addition to bacterial vaginosis (the most common one). Some other infections caused by disturbed pH include urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections. You should consult a doctor for the correct diagnosis and treatment if you have a vaginal infection.
What symptoms does BV cause?
Although nearly 84% percent of people with BV are asymptomatic, others may experience:
- A “fishy” vaginal odor that worsens after sex and during menstruation
- Discharge with a foul smell
- Itchiness or soreness in the vagina
- Grey, green, or off-white discharge
Since BV and other vaginal infections can have similar symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor to establish a diagnosis.
How are yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV) different?
Although both infections result in an increased discharge, they can be differentiated on the basis of the following properties:
- The hallmark of BV is grey/green/white discharge with a fishy odor, while in a yeast infection, the discharge has a cottage cheese-like consistency and no strong smell.
- Yeast infections are infamous for causing vaginal irritation and itchiness, but BV does this to a lower extent.
- OTC treatments work on yeast infections, but for BV, you need to get antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
What Can You Do to Treat BV?
There are some many ways to treat BV. BV treatments are available over the counter at pharmacies and on Amazon. Although BV sometimes resolves without treatment, if it doesn’t clear on its own, make sure to consult a doctor. Antibiotics such as metronidazole and clindamycin are typically prescribed to treatment for BV.