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Recurring Bacterial Vaginosis

Q: I've been diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis numerous times, but no matter how many pills or creams my doctor prescribes, nothing seems to clear it up for good. And as if the itching and burning sensations weren't bad enough, the odor is so strong I'm too embarrassed to be intimate with my husband! Can you help?

Dr. Donnica:
The characteristic sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV, also called "Gardnerella") is a strong "fishy" odor. This odor may become more pronounced after having sex. While this infection can be passed between partners (making recurrences difficult to treat), it is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

The vagina normally contains many "good" bacteria, called lactobacilli, as well as other bacteria, called anaerobes. When conditions allow the anaerobes to proliferate, a mild infection, called bacterial vaginosis, can result. This can occur in women who are not (or who have never been) sexually active, as well as women who are in a mutually monogamous relationship.

The good news is that BV is treatable with one of two medicines by prescription only: metronidazole or clindamycin. The bad news is that this doesn't seem to be working in your case. Has your husband been treated? While the medical literature is inconclusive about whether treating partners actually helps in most cases, many physicians would recommend treating you and your husband simultaneously with antibiotics and suggest postponing any further intercourse until the infection is resolved.

Created: 1/24/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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