Bacterial vaginosis is an infection caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. Within the vagina are two main groups of bacteria: lactobacilli and anaerobes.
The lactobacilli are considered “good” bacteria, while the anaerobes are considered “bad” bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the number of anaerobes outnumbers lactobacilli, resulting in an imbalance.
For many women, there will be no symptoms with bacterial vaginosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 84 percent of women do not have any symptoms with the infection.
This is called asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis. Although it does not cause symptoms, asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis still needs to be treated.
Women who do have symptomatic bacterial vaginosis may experience changes in their vaginal area. For example, bacterial vaginosis may produce an abnormal vaginal discharge.
The appearance of this discharge may be a gray or milky white color. Its consistence may be thin, or appear watery or foamy.
In addition to the abnormal color and consistency, the vaginal discharge may have a smell. The discharge may have a foul odor, such as a “fishy odor.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health noted that the odor may be more noticeable after sexual intercourse.
Pain and discomfort may also occur as symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. During intercourse, women with bacterial vaginosis may experience pain.
A burning sensation may occur during urination. Women may have irritation or itching around the vaginal area.
In some cases, bacterial vaginosis may cause light vaginal bleeding.
Many of the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis can occur with other types of infections. Women experiencing any of these symptoms should see their health care provider to get the proper diagnostic tests done.
Getting diagnosed and receiving treatment for bacterial vaginosis is important, as untreated bacterial vaginosis can result in several health complications.