In many cases, a woman may have a bacterial vaginal infection without being aware of it. These infections only seem to cause obvious symptoms in some women. When symptoms do occur, however, they typically include an abnormal vaginal discharge, an unpleasant odor, and itching or irritation of the vagina. In some cases, a woman with a bacterial vaginal infection will also experience pain during sexual intercourse and urinating as well as spotting between normal menstrual periods. If complications of a bacterial infection occur, a woman may also experience pain in other parts of the body, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
The symptoms of bacterial vaginal infection typically depend on the type of bacteria that caused the infection. For example, a woman may develop bacterial vaginosis, which is marked by itchiness, a milky white or grayish discharge from the vagina, and an unpleasant odor that is often described as a fishy smell. The types of bacteria that may cause bacterial vaginosis include Gardnerella vaginalis, Gardnerella mobiluncus, and Mycoplasma hominis. Often, women do not seek treatment for this condition because they either do not experience symptoms or mistake them for those of a yeast infection.
Chlamydia is another type of bacteria infection that affects the vagina. The symptoms of bacterial vaginal infection caused by chlamydia include an abnormal discharge and itching or burning in the vaginal area. A woman may also experience pain in the lower back or abdomen, nausea, fever, and bleeding between menstrual periods with this disease. Additionally, some women may experience pain during sexual intercourse. Chlamydia is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis.
Sometimes the symptoms of bacterial vaginal infection are caused by a condition called gonorrhea. This condition, caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, may not be accompanied by any symptoms. When it does cause symptoms, they may include an abnormal discharge from the vagina, pain during urination, and bleeding between menstrual periods.
In some cases, symptoms of bacterial vaginal infection never develop, or are very mild, and the infection goes untreated. In such a case, a woman may develop a complication of the illness called pelvic inflammatory disease. This is marked by infection of the pelvic organs and can lead to severe illness and infertility. To avoid this, a woman may do well to see a doctor if she thinks she has been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease or if she has symptoms of a bacterial infection. Additionally, women who have unprotected sex outside of a monogamous relationship may benefit from frequent testing.