Dr. M.J. Bazos MD,
What is bacterial
Bacterial vaginosis is a mild infection in the
vagina caused by a type of bacteria (germ). The vagina normally contains a lot
of "good" bacteria, called lactobacilli (say: "lack-toe bah-sil-li"), and a few
other types of bacteria, called anaerobes. Too many anaerobes (say:
"ann-air-robes") can cause bacterial vaginosis. We don't know why the anaerobe
bacteria overgrow and cause this infection.
How do I know I
have bacterial vaginosis?
You may notice a discharge from your vagina. The
discharge may be clear or colored. It may be very light or heavy. It may have a
fishy smell, especially after you have intercourse. Some women have bacterial
vaginosis without any symptoms.
How can my doctor
tell if I have bacterial vaginosis?
Your doctor will examine your vagina and use a
cotton swab to get a sample of the discharge. This sample will be
If this is an
infection, did I catch it from someone?
No. Bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of
bacteria that are normally in the vagina. While it's more common in women who
are sexually active, it also occurs in women who are not sexually active. It's
not usually necessary for your sex partner to be treated.
Does it have to
Yes. If the infection isn't treated, the
bacteria may get up into the uterus or the fallopian tubes and cause more
serious infections. Treating bacterial vaginosis lowers this risk. Treatment is
especially important in pregnant women.
How is bacterial
It can be treated in one of several ways. Your
doctor may prescribe pills for you to take by mouth, or a cream or gel to put in
your vagina. It's important to use your medicine exactly as your doctor tells
If your doctor prescribes metronidazole (brand
name: Flagyl) or other medicines, don't drink any alcohol while taking the
medicine or for 24 hours afterward. Combining alcohol with these medicines can
cause nausea and vomiting. Even the small amount of alcohol in many cough syrups
can cause nausea and vomiting if you're taking metronidazole. Also, be sure to
tell your doctor about any other medicines you are currently