Bacterial vaginosis is a type of vaginal inflammation that results from the overgrowth of one of several types of bacteria normally present in the vagina, upsetting the natural balance of vaginal bacteria.
Women in their reproductive years are most commonly affected by bacterial vaginosis, but any woman can experience the condition. Doctors don’t know exactly why bacterial vaginosis develops, but certain activities, such as unprotected sexual intercourse or frequent douching, put you at higher risk of the condition.
Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of one of several organisms normally present in your vagina. Usually, “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) outnumber “bad” bacteria (anaerobes) in your vagina. But if anaerobic bacteria become too numerous, they upset the natural balance of microorganisms in your vagina, resulting in bacterial vaginosis.
Bacterial vaginosis signs and symptoms may include:
- Vaginal discharge that’s thin and grayish white
- Foul-smelling “fishy” vaginal odor, especially after sexual intercourse
- Vaginal itching
- Burning during urination
- However, many women with bacterial vaginosis have no signs or symptoms at all.
When to see a doctor
You probably need to see your doctor if you have new vaginal symptoms and:
- You’ve never had a vaginal infection. Seeing your doctor will establish the cause and help you learn to identify signs and symptoms.
- You’ve had vaginal infections before, but these symptoms seem different.
- You’ve had multiple sex partners or a recent new partner. You could have a sexually transmitted infection. Signs and symptoms of some sexually transmitted infections are similar to those of bacterial vaginosis.
- You’ve tried self-treatment for a yeast infection with an over-the-counter anti-yeast medication and your symptoms persist, you have a fever, or you have a particularly unpleasant vaginal odor.