Research has shown that a significant proportion of women will contract one or more strains of the human Papillomavirus (HPV) during their lifetime. Estimated figures suggest that as many as four in five women will contract the virus, with around 5% of those infected going on to develop precancerous lesions in the cervix.
Recent studies have highlighted the role of vaginal flora in persistent HPV infections. They suggest that the composition of the vaginal microbiome may play a key role in determining whether an HPV infection clears up or persists. They also suggest that certain bacterial species potentially influence the immune response to the virus.
Understanding the relationship between vaginal flora and HPV is vital. It could help provide new ways to prevent the development of precancerous lesions and cervical cancer in high-risk populations. So, what is bacterial vaginosis and how is it treated?
What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common condition that affects the vaginal microbiome in women. It is caused by an imbalance of the naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina, where there is a decrease in lactobacilli (the good bacteria) and an increase in harmful bacteria.
The exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to changes in hormonal levels, and sexual activity. The condition is more common in women who are sexually active, but it can occur in those who are not.
Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t always produce symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include an abnormal vaginal discharge, which may be thin, grey, or white in colour, accompanied by a fishy odour. Some women may also experience vaginal itching, burning, or pain during urination.
How can I treat bacterial vaginosis?
Treatment for bacterial vaginosis typically involves antibiotics. This can be administered in the form of oral tablets, or as a cream or gel applied directly into the vagina. It is important to inform your doctor or nurse if you might be pregnant, or are currently breastfeeding. This information can impact the type of treatment you receive.
The importance of regular testing
Regular testing for bacterial vaginosis is important as it doesn’t always cause any noticeable symptoms. As a result, many women may be unaware that they have the condition and may not seek treatment until complications arise.
Routine testing can help to identify bacterial vaginosis early on, which can prevent the development of more serious complications. These include pelvic inflammatory disease, and sexually transmitted infections. Testing can also help to distinguish bacterial vaginosis from other conditions that may have similar symptoms, such as STIs.
At SureScan, we offer routine gynaecological scans in a friendly, relaxing environment. All scans are carried out by gynaecology consultants who have years of experience in both the NHS and private sector. To book a gynaecological scan, contact our friendly team today.