Vaginitis: Causes & Treatments

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of vaginal discharge in women. It can cause bothersome symptoms, and also increases the risk of acquiring serious sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV. It may be difficult to know if discharge is caused by BV or other common vaginal infections, thus a visit with a healthcare provider is recommended in most cases.


BV occurs when there is a change in the number and types of bacteria in the vagina. Lactobacilli are a type of bacteria that are normally found in the vagina. In women with BV, the number of lactobacilli is reduced. The reason for these changes is not known.

Risk factors — Risk factors for BV include multiple or new sexual partners, douching, and cigarette smoking. Although sexual activity can increase the risk of developing BV, BV can occur in women who have never had vaginal intercourse. BV is not thought to be a sexually transmitted infection.

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