Bacterial Vaginosis (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Bacterial vaginosis facts
- What is bacterial vaginosis?
- What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?
- What causes bacterial vaginosis?
- Is bacterial vaginosis contagious?
- How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?
- Are there home remedies for bacterial vaginosis?
- What is the treatment for bacterial vaginosis?
- What are complications of bacterial vaginosis?
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Is bacterial vaginosis contagious?
Although bacterial vaginosis is not considered to be a contagious condition, the role of transmissibility of bacteria among individuals is not fully understood. Since having multiple or new sexual partners increases a woman's risk of developing bacterial vaginosis, this suggests that spread of bacteria among individuals may alter the balance of bacteria in the vagina and potentially predispose to bacterial vaginosis. However, since bacterial vaginosis also occurs in celibate women, other causative factors must also play a role in its development.
It is not possible to contract bacterial vaginosis from toilet seats, swimming pools, or hot tubs, or from touching contaminated objects.
How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?
When a woman reports an unusual vaginal discharge, the doctor will ask her a series of routine questions to help distinguish mild from more serious conditions. Additional issues that might indicate the presence of a more serious condition include fever, pelvic pain, new or multiple sexual partners (especially with unprotected intercourse), and a history of sexually-transmitted infections (STDs).
In addition to these questions, the doctor will perform a pelvic exam. During the exam, the doctor notes the appearance of the vaginal lining and cervix. The doctor will also perform a manual exam of the ovaries and uterus. The cervix is examined for tenderness, which might indicate a more serious infection. The doctor may collect samples to check for chlamydia or gonorrhea infection.
Examining the vaginal discharge under the microscope can help distinguish bacterial vaginosis from yeast vaginitis (vaginal yeast infection, Candidiasis) and trichomoniasis (a type of sexually-transmitted infection). A sign of bacterial vaginosis under the microscope is a vaginal cell called a clue cell. Clue cells are vaginal cells covered with bacteria and are believed to be the most reliable diagnostic sign of bacterial vaginosis. In addition to clue cells, women with bacterial vaginosis have fewer of the normal vaginal bacteria, called lactobacilli. A vaginal pH greater than 4.5 is also suggestive of bacterial vaginosis. Cultures of bacteria are generally not useful in establishing the diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis.
Finally, the doctor may perform a "whiff test" with potassium hydroxide (KOH) liquid. When a drop of KOH testing liquid used in the "whiff test" contacts a drop of the discharge from a woman with bacterial vaginosis, a certain fishy odor can result.
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