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Vaginosis symptoms, causes and risk factors

The vaginosis is a type of vaginal inflammation. It is caused by the overgrowth of bacteria which is naturally found in the vagina and this upset the natural balance of it. It is known fact that women who are in their reproductive years are having most chances to get bacterial vaginosis but also it can affect women from all ages [1]. The cause for vaginosis is not completely understood but there are some activities which can increase your risk of vaginosis, such as frequent douching or having unprotected sex. You should not douche because the frequent douching can disrupt the vaginal balance and this can increase your risk of vaginal infection [2]. Douching will not clear your vaginal infection.

Vaginosis symptoms, causes and risk factors

Symptoms: Here are some signs and symptoms of vaginosis:

  • Burning during urination
  • Vaginal itching
  • Foul – smelling “fishy” vaginal odor
  • Thin, gray, white or green vaginal discharge

There are many women who have vaginosis and who do not have signs and symptoms. You should visit your doctor if you have a vaginal discharge which is new and it is associated with fever or odor. Your doctor will tell you the cause for this and he or she will identify the symptoms. If you have had vaginal infections in your past, but the color and the consistency of the discharge seems different this time, then you should talk with your doctor. If you have a recent new partner or you have multiple sex partners, then you should talk with your doctor because the symptoms of the sexually transmitted infection are similar to the symptoms of the bacterial vaginosis. If you have tried a self – treatment for a yeast infection along with over – the counter treatments and you have noticed that your symptoms are not improved, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

Causes: It is known that the bacterial vaginosis can result from an overgrowth of one of the several bacteria that are naturally found in the vagina. The good bacteria outnumber the bad bacteria. If there are too many anaerobic bacteria (this is the name for bad bacteria), then they upset the natural balance of microorganisms in your vagina and this can cause bacterial vaginosis.

Risk factors: Here are some factors which can increase your risk of bacterial vaginosis:

  • Natural lack of lactobacilli bacteria: It is known fact that if your vaginal environment is not producing enough of the good lactobacilli bacteria, then you have increased chances of getting bacterial vaginosis. [3]
  • Douching: It is known that the practice of rinsing your vagina with a cleansing agent or with water can upset the natural balance of vagina. It can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria and this can cause bacterial vaginosis [2,3]. The vagina is self – cleaning organ so this means that douching is not necessary.
  • Having multiple sex partners or a new sex partner: It is not fully understood the link between the bacterial vaginosis and sexual activity but in many studies are shown that bacterial vaginosis is happening more often in women who have multiple sex partners or a new sex partner. Also this condition is happening more often in women who have sex with other women [4].Vaginosis symptoms, cause and risk factors.

Vaginosis Symptoms, Cause and Risk factors

Vaginosis symptoms, cause and risk factors

Complications: In the most cases, the bacterial vaginosis is not causing complications. In some cases, when you have bacterial vaginosis, then it could lead to:

  • PID (Pelvic inflammatory disease): There are some cases when the bacterial vaginosis can lead to PID which is an infection of the uterus and the fallopian tubes and this can increase your risk of infertility. [5]
  • Increased risk of infection after you had gynecologic surgery: If you have bacterial vaginosis, then it can increase your risk of developing a post – surgical infection procedure, such as dilation and curettage and hysterectomy.
  • Sexually transmitted infections: It is known that women who have bacterial vaginosis are having more chances to get sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, herpes simplex virus or HIV. If you have HIV, then the bacterial vaginosis will increase the chances of passing this virus to your partner.
  • Increased chances of preterm birth: If pregnant woman has a bacterial vaginosis, then it is linked to premature delivers and a low birth weight of babies. [6]


[1] Bilardi J, Walker S, McNair R, et al. Women’s management of recurrent bacterial vaginosis and experiences of clinical care: A qualitative study. PLoS One. 2016;11(3):e0151794.

[2] Brotman RM, Ghanem KG, Klebanoff MA, et al. The effect of vaginal douching cessation on bacterial vaginosis: A pilot study. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2008;198(6):628.e1-e7.

[3] Ness RB, Hillier SL, Richter HE, et al. Douching in relation to bacterial vaginosis, lactobacilli, and facultative bacteria in the vagina. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2002;100(4):765-72.

[4] Evans AL, Scally AJ, Wellard SJ, Wilson JD. Prevalence of bacterial vaginosis in lesbians and heterosexual women in a community setting. Sexually Transmitted Infections. 2007;83(6):470–5.

[5] Peipert JF, Montagno AB, Cooper AS, Sung CJ. Bacterial vaginosis as a risk factor for upper genital tract infection. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 1997;177(5):1184-7.

[6] Oakeshott P, Kerry S, Hay S, Hay P. Bacterial vaginosis and preterm birth: a prospective community-based cohort study. British Journal of General Practice. 2004;54(499):119–22.

Dina Mohy
Dina Mohy
Dr. Dina M., a medical graduate (MBBCh), and currently a medical intern who has interest in scientific and data research. Dina likes reading novels and baking during free time. She is more interested in basic sciences like immunology and molecular biology.


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