Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment: What to Know

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection caused by too much of a certain type of bacteria in your vagina. Left untreated, it can raise your risk for several serious health problems.

Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t always cause symptoms. But if it does, they can include:

  • Pain, burning, or itching in the vagina
  • Itching around the outside of the vagina
  • A thin white or gray vaginal discharge
  • A strong, fish-like odor, especially after sex
  • A burning sensation when you’re peeing
  • Stomach pain

Other conditions have similar symptoms. See your doctor and get tested for BV to be sure this is the cause of your symptoms.

What’s the Treatment for BV?

Your doctor will most likely prescribe an antibiotic medication (a gel or cream) to kill the infection. These might include:

Clindamycin, a cream you use in your vagina. It sells under the brand names Cleocin and Clindesse.

Metronidazole, available as a pill you swallow or a gel you insert in your vagina. This medication sells under the brand names Flagyl and Metrogel-Vaginal.

Secnidazole, available as a single pill you take once. It’s sold under the brand name Solosec. 

Tinidazole, available as a pill you swallow. It’s sold under the brand name Tindamax.

It’s important to take your medication for as long as your doctor prescribes it. If you stop taking it early, you may increase the chance BV will come back.

Clindamycin can weaken latex condoms not only while you’re using the medication, but for at least 3 days after you stop. The other 3 won’t affect the birth control pill or patch.

You should avoid alcohol while taking metronidazole, secnidazole, or tinidazole and for at least a day after you finish your prescription. This will lessen your chance of upset stomach or nausea. And if you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t take them during your first trimester.

What If My BV Comes Back?

It’s common for this infection to come back within a year. If that happens, talk you your doctor about treatments. He may prescribe extended-use metronidazole.

Can Probiotics Treat BV?

You might have considered taking these good bacteria as a way tomaintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your vagina.

There are at least seven types of bacteria that grow in the vagina. Lactobacillus is one of them. BV is linked to a decrease of lactobacillus, which is found in yogurt and acidophilus milk. Some studies suggest that eating foods that contain lactobacillus may be beneficial, but more research is needed.

Do not douche with yogurt or any other product. Vaginal douching is a risk factor for BV.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on September 21, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Bacterial Vaginosis -- CDC Fact Sheet.”

Mayo Clinic: “Bacterial Vaginosis.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Bacterial Vaginosis.”

US Office of Women’s Health: “Bacterial Vaginosis.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “TINDAMAX- Tinidazole Tablet, Film Coated,” “METRONIDAZOLE 250 MG- Metronidazole Tablet, Film Coated,” “CLINDAMAX- ClindamycinPhosphate Gel.”

National Health Service (UK): “Will Antibiotics Stop my Contraception Working?”

Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Science: “Bacterial Vaginosis: Etiology and Modalities of Treatment -- A Brief Note.”

Archives of AIDS Research: “Alternative Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis in Pregnant Patients; Restoration of Vaginal Acidity and Flora.”

Biomed Central Infectious Disease: “Association Between Cigarette Smoking and the Vaginal Microbiota: a Pilot Study.”

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