What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection of the vagina. It is caused when other strains of bacteria (Bacteroides, Gardnerella vaginalis, Mobiluncus, and Mycoplasma hominis are common varieties found with bacterial vaginosis) outnumber the "good" bacteria that normally reside in the vagina. Doctors aren't sure what causes bacterial vaginosis, but it appears to be linked to multiple sexual partners, changing sexual partners, and douching.


The exact method of transmission of bacterial vaginosis is unknown. It appears to have links to the following:

  • Change in sexual partners
  • Douching
  • IUD use
  • Multiple sexual partners

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How is Bacterial Vaginosis diagnosed?

In order to diagnose bacterial vaginosis, a physician will take a sample of vaginal fluid and look at it under a microscope. Both the presence of bacteria commonly associated with the condition and an absence of "good" bacteria are signs of bacterial vaginosis.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis in Men and Women?

Timeline for symptoms to appear varies.

There are symptoms of bacterial vaginosis that a patient will usually notice:

  • Abnormal discharge, often thin and either milky or gray
  • Burning with urination
  • Fishy Odor
  • Itching

What Are the Complications and Risks of Bacterial Vaginosis?

Generally, bacterial vaginosis does not cause complications. However, if left untreated, it has been associated with:

How is Bacterial Vaginosis Treated?

Bacterial Vaginosis is easily treated with a single dose of the following antibiotics:

  • Metronidazole. Orally twice a day for seven days or topically twice daily for five days.
  • Clindamycin. Orally twice a day for seven days or topically before bed for seven days.

Recovery Time

Treatment takes between five and seven days, however, recovery may not be complete for a few days after that.

Sexual Activity

If you have bacterial vaginosis, your male sexual partners do not need to be treated. However, bacterial vaginosis can be spread between female sex partners; as such, they should be tested and treated. Additionally, sex should be avoided until both partners are free from infection. Re-infection is entirely possible with bacterial vaginosis; as such, it is advisable to take whatever precautions possible.

How to Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis?

As the causes of bacterial vaginosis are not clearly understood, it is difficult to determine prevention methods. The condition is more common among women who are sexually active and there appears to be a link between not using condoms and developing bacterial vaginosis. With that in mind, abstaining from sex or being monogamous and using condoms would be the best prevention methods. Additionally, as there is a link with douching, that should be avoided as well.

Mark Riegel, MD

Quick Snapshot

Can it be cured?

Yes. Bacterial vaginosis is easily treated.

Type of Infection

Bacterial. Caused by various bacteria.

How is treated?

Antibiotics. Metronidazole or Clindamycin taken for 5 to 7 days.

Recovery Time

Upto 2 weeks. One to two weeks can be needed for symptoms to fully disappear.

Can I have sex?

No. Sex with female partners should be avoided to prevent spread of the infection.

Can I get re-infected?

Yes. Doctors are unsure of the precise cause of bacterial vaginosis.

Do I Have Bacterial Vaginosis?

Find out whether or not you have Bacterial Vaginosis and what STD test is recommended using our symptom checker. Get your personalized recommendations now!

Bacterial Vaginosis Symptom Checker

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