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What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV)?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, which happens when the normal bacteria (germs) in the vagina get out of balance, such as from douching or from sexual contact. Symptoms include vaginal discharge that can be white, gray, or thin and have an odor; burning or pain when urinating; or itching around the outside of the vagina. There also may be no symptoms.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

The most common symptom of bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal discharge similar in consistency and appearance to skim milk. The discharge caused by the infection often has a strong "fishy" odor that may become worse after sex because semen changes the acidic level of vaginal fluids. BV also may cause vaginal itching and irritation. About 50 percent to 75 percent of all women with BV experience no symptoms.

Women may easily mistake BV for a yeast infection, which is caused by the overgrowth of fungi called Candida albicans. However, BV requires a different treatment, so it is important you get an accurate diagnosis. Additionally, you may have more than one type of vaginitis at the same time, so having a yeast infection doesn't mean you can't also have BV.

Get evaluated by a healthcare professional and seek treatment if you suffer from any of the following symptoms:

  • A thin white or gray milky discharge
  • A fishy odor
  • Pain, itching or burning in the vagina
  • Itching around the vagina

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

Dr. Shelley C. Giebel, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

This is the most common vaginal infection I treat in my practice. Usually patients have no itching, but irritation and a "raw" sensation. Often patients will complain of a "foul" odor that is embarassing. Sometimes patients refuse to use public restrooms because of embarassment caused by the odor. Sometime "slimmy" gray discharge or watery discharge can be a symptom of bacterial vaginosis (BV).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.