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Bacterial Vaginosis (cont.)

What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?

Vaginal discharge, often with a foul-smelling odor, is typically the only symptom of bacterial vaginosis. The discharge has been described a thin and gray to white in color. It is difficult to determine how much discharge represents an abnormal amount, since all women can have varying amounts of vaginal discharge. In general, any discharge that is in excess of normal for a particular woman can be regarded as abnormal. Many women with bacterial vaginosis have no symptoms at all.

What kind of doctor treats bacterial vagniosis?

Gynecologists typically treat bacterial vaginosis, although primary care providers also may treat the condition.

When should you seek medical care if you think you may have bacterial vaginosis?

If you experience an unusual or excessive vaginal discharge, a visit to your health-care professional is recommended so that more serious conditions can be ruled out, such as infection with Chlamydia or gonorrhea. The unpleasant symptoms of bacterial vaginosis also can be effectively treated.

How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?

The medical history and physical examination are the first steps in helping to distinguish bacterial vaginosis from more serious conditions.

After taking a medical history, the health-care professional will perform a pelvic exam. During the exam, the health-care professional will observe the vaginal lining and cervix and will perform a manual examination of the ovaries and uterus. Also during the exam, the health-care professional may collect samples for examination under a microscope or for other studies to rule out the presence of sexually transmitted infections (STDs).

Examination of the discharge under the microscope can help distinguish bacterial vaginosis from yeast vaginitis (candidiasis) and trichomonas (a type of sexually transmitted infection). A sign of bacterial vaginosis under the microscope is an unusual cell referred to as a "clue cell." Women with bacterial vaginosis also have fewer of the type of normal vaginal bacteria called lactobacilli. The vaginal pH (degree of acidity or alkalinity) may also be measured, since a vaginal pH greater than 4.5 also suggests bacterial vaginosis.

A so-called "whiff test" with potassium hydroxide (KOH) liquid is sometimes performed whereby a drop of KOH testing liquid is mixed with a drop of vaginal discharge. If bacterial vaginosis is present, a fishy odor can result.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/11/2016

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