5 Signs of Bacterial Vaginosis

May 16, 2023
5 Signs of Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal condition. But the symptoms — from itching and burning to strong odors — can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Learn the most common signs of BV and what to do about it here.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is one of the most common types of vaginal infection. It occurs when an imbalance of bacteria develops in your vagina, and about 35% of women will get BV in their lifetimes.

BV isn’t a sexually transmitted infection, but it may develop after sexual activity with new or multiple partners. It can be uncomfortable and concerning — but the good news is that it’s easily treatable with antibiotics.

At Path MD Labs in Los Angeles, California, we offer advanced bacterial vaginosis testing, like RT-PCR and Hologic Aptima® tests, to get accurate results fast. When you know your exact diagnosis, you can choose the treatment that’s most effective.

Here are five of the most common signs of BV.

1. Abnormal vaginal discharge

Healthy vaginas naturally have some discharge, but one of the most common signs of BV is changes in discharge. Look for abnormal signs, like discharge that’s thin and watery with a grayish-white color. Some women may also experience an increase in the amount of discharge with BV.

2. Itching and burning sensations

BV often causes itching and burning in and around your vagina. This can be a sign of irritation caused by excessive or abnormal vaginal discharge. Sometimes, BV can cause discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse or urination.

3. Vaginal dryness

Although BV can cause increased vaginal discharge, some women may experience vaginal dryness. This symptom can occur when the bacteria in your vagina disrupt the natural pH balance, leading to a decrease in natural lubrication. This can cause discomfort during sexual activity and in severe cases, it can even lead to small cuts in your vaginal tissue.

4. Discomfort in your pelvic area

Women with BV may experience pelvic discomfort, like cramping or abdominal pain. This can be a sign of inflammation caused by the infection. Without proper treatment, infection can spread to your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

5. Unpleasant odor

The most distinct sign of BV is a strong, unpleasant odor. The smell is often described as fishy or musty and it may be more noticeable after sexual activity or during menstruation. The odor may be stronger in some women than others, and can be a source of embarrassment.

What to do if you think you have bacterial vaginosis

The symptoms of BV can mimic those of other conditions, including sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and yeast infections. If you’ve noticed new or changing symptoms like the ones above, it’s important to see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

BV can be diagnosed through a pelvic exam and a sample of vaginal discharge. Your provider may also perform a pH test or culture to determine the type of bacteria present in the vagina.

If you’re diagnosed with BV, antibiotics can treat the infection. Most antibiotics start clearing up the infection within a few days to a week, and you should take your medication as prescribed.

How to prevent bacterial vaginosis

Whether you’ve had BV before or not, there’s a lot you can do to prevent it from developing in the future. Start by keeping your vaginal area clean and dry, and avoid using douches or scented products that can disrupt the natural pH balance.

Having multiple sexual partners can increase your risk of developing BV, so consider avoiding multiple partners. Remember to use condoms during sexual activity to reduce your risk of developing BV and STIs.

Last but not least, get annual well-woman exams. Regular gynecological exams and screenings can help identify and treat BV early, preventing bothersome symptoms and more serious complications.

BV can be uncomfortable and embarrassing — but it’s extremely common, and it can be treated. Learn more about your testing options by calling 424-245-7284 or sending our team at Path MD a message online