One of the most irritating feminine infections is bacterial vaginosis (BV) because it not only itches and is often accompanied by pain, but it leaves a foul smelling ‘fishy’ odor that is almost impossible to get rid of. There are several remedies that can reduce and/or eliminate symptoms, some of which are pharmaceutical and others are home remedies. Unfortunately, BV is not fully understood so there really isn’t a ‘once and for all’ cure.
Overly Alkaline Vaginal Tract a Cause
The odd thing about this feminine infection is that although it is the most common, it is one of the least understood. What is known about it is that something causes a disruption in the pH environment of the vagina which allows bad bacteria such as mobiluncus, gardnerella vaginalis, bacteroides, and mycoplasma to thrive and friendly bacteria like acidophilus to die. A healthy vaginal tract requires a level of acidity under 4.5 but when bacterial vaginosis is present the alkalinity is normally well over that and often even greater than 7.0. BV is not believed to be a sexually transmitted disease but it is more commonly present in sexually active women of childbearing years. The thing that is not completely understood is how the disruption in the pH environment transpires.
How Bacterial Vaginosis Is Diagnosed
It is definitively diagnosed if three of four criteria are present at the same time. This is called the Amsel criteria and those criteria include a pH greater than 4.5, a thin white or yellow discharge, clue cells discovered under a microscope (vaginal cells coated with bacteria) and a ‘fishy odor’ that releases when a 10% solution of potassium hydroxide is introduced to the cells. Many times all four criteria are met, but a diagnosis can be made in the presence of only three. There are other laboratory tests which can be administered but the most common ‘test’ is the Amsel criteria.
Bacterial Vaginosis: Pharmaceutical Treatments
While there is no way to actually ‘cure’ bacterial vaginosis, there are antibiotics that can treat a current flare up. Those pharmaceuticals include metronidazole and clindamycin which can be administered vaginally or orally. Unfortunately, those medications can only treat the current infection because chances are the vagina will once again become too alkaline and the infection will manifest again. Also, both of those antibiotics are known to cause a yeast infection which is just as bothersome as bacterial vaginosis in regard to a discharge along with itching and pain. From the patient’s perspective there is no change in the symptoms she experiences, it’s just like trading one problem for another.
Avoid Commercial Douches
Many women choose to try home remedies in lieu of pharmaceuticals for just that reason. Because antibiotics are known to cause yeast infections they seek natural treatments that help to restore the acidic environment of the vagina. While douching should be avoided during a bacterial vaginosis episode, those products being referred to are commercial douches that have deodorants and fragrances that can exacerbate the problem. A simple douche with warm distilled water and apple cider vinegar helps to bring the acidity back to where it should be.
Alternative Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis
Also, a nice warm bath with apple cider vinegar in the water helps the external itching as well. Natural remedies, although not pleasant, also include inserting plain yogurt into the vagina on a tampon and/or a clove of garlic which has natural antimicrobial properties. Many women take a good probiotic with acidophilus which helps to restore friendly flora along with other pharmaceutical or natural remedies. Eating 2 to 3 servings of yogurt per day will also help to recolonize the vagina with friendly bacteria.
May Exacerbate Other Vaginal Diseases
While bacterial vaginosis is not sexually transmitted, it may be transmitted from one female to the next by a sexually active partner. The male does not get the infection but there is some evidence to suggest that he may be a carrier from one woman to the next. Additionally, being infected with BV can affect and/or exacerbate other pelvic inflammatory diseases or sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes, chlamydia and HIV. BV may also present complications in pregnant women so it should be treated as soon as possible.
Even though medical science has yet to discover what causes an overly alkaline state in the vaginal tract, it is known that bacterial vaginosis is the result of this problem. There are pharmaceutical treatments that can often subdue a current infection, but there is no drug that can guarantee it won’t recur. Many women are now taking daily probiotic supplements as a prophylactic measure to keep lactobacillus supplied to the system to help avoid future problems. Just be aware of the fact that a definitive diagnosis must be made before beginning any treatments to make certain the underlying cause is not some STD or PID that bacterial vaginosis is mimicking. Always talk to your medical professional before beginning any new remedies or treatments for the first time.