A condition that occurs due to an overgrowth of one or more species of bacteria in the vagina. The bacteria temporarily takes over the vaginal ecosystem, causing a range of symptoms including itching, burning, unpleasant odors, and discharge.

Because of their similar symptoms, bacterial vaginosis is often confused with yeast infections (overgrowth of the Candida albicans fungus). Both conditions can occur due to imbalances in vaginal pH levels, both are types of vaginitis, and both require basic medical treatment. Physicians will typically prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial vaginosis.

It is important to note that microorganisms naturally grow in the vagina, including many beneficial bacteria; see “vaginal flora” for more information. Women who are especially susceptible to bacterial vaginosis should use a pH-balanced lubricant.