Bacterial vaginosis is vaginal condition that can produce vaginal discharge and results from an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. In the past, the condition was called Gardnerella vaginitis, after the bacteria that were thought to cause the condition. However, the newer name, bacterial vaginosis, reflects the fact that there are a number of species of bacteria that naturally live in the vaginal area and may grow to excess. The Gardnerella organism is not the sole culprit causing the symptoms. When these multiple species of bacteria become imbalanced, a woman can have a vaginal discharge with a foul odor.
Bacterial vaginosis is not dangerous, but it can cause disturbing symptoms. Any woman with an unusual discharge should be evaluated so that more serious infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be excluded. Symptoms may also mimic those found in yeast infections of the vagina and trichomoniasis (a sexually-transmitted infection), and these conditions must also be excluded in women with vaginal symptoms.
Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition, and studies have shown that approximately 29% of women in the US are affected. Bacterial vaginosis is found in about 16% of pregnant women and approximately 60% of women who have a sexually-transmitted disease (STD).
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