Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Sexual Conditions Health Center

Bacterial Vaginosis - Exams and Tests

Your doctor may only test you for bacterial vaginosis if you:

  • Have symptoms.
  • Are going to have a hysterectomy or surgical abortion (bacterial vaginosis increases infection risk afterwards).
  • Are pregnant and have had a preterm delivery in the past (a past preterm delivery may have been caused by infection).

Your doctor can diagnose bacterial vaginosis based on your history of symptoms, a vaginal exam, and a sample of the vaginal discharge. Laboratory tests to detect signs of bacterial vaginosis may include:

  • Wet mount. A sample of vaginal discharge is mixed with a salt (normal saline) solution after placing it on a microscope slide. The prepared slide is examined to identify the bacteria present, to look for white blood cells that point to an infection, and to look for unusual cells called clue cells. The presence of clue cells is the most reliable sign of bacterial vaginosis.
  • Whiff test. Several drops of a potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution are added to a sample of vaginal discharge to find out whether a strong fishy odor is produced. A fishy odor on the whiff test suggests bacterial vaginosis.
  • Vaginal pH. The normal vaginal pH is 3.8 to 4.5. Bacterial vaginosis usually causes the vaginal pH to rise above 4.5.
  • Oligonucleotide probes. This test detects the genetic material (DNA) of bacterial vaginosis bacteria. Oligonucleotide probe testing is very accurate but is not routinely available in most labs.

The presence of clue cells, an increased vaginal pH, and a positive whiff test are enough evidence to treat for bacterial vaginosis.

Bacterial vaginosis may be detected during routine Pap testing. But Pap testing is not a standard or reliable test to diagnose bacterial vaginosis.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 01, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Sex Drive Killers 03
Slideshow
couple holding hands
Quiz
 
Couple in bed
Article
Condom Quiz
Quiz
 

HIV Myth Facts
Slideshow
STD Overview
Slideshow
 
Man tearing a condom packet
Quiz
things your guy wish you knew slideshow
Slideshow
 

Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
Girls Puberty 10
Quiz
 
Couple in bed
Article
Young couple holding hands
Quiz
 

WebMD Special Sections