Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection in the vagina. Males cannot develop bacterial vaginosis, but they can spread the infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BV is the most common form of vaginal infection for women between ages 15 to 44.

People with BV can get symptoms that include excess and discolored discharge from the vagina. It can cause a burning or itching sensation around the vagina, especially when urinating.

Currently, doctors are unclear exactly how the infection starts. But having sex with multiple partners or the regular use of douches that upsets the healthy vaginal flora may be responsible. Sex with both males and females can increase the risk of BV to spread.

In this article, we discuss what BV is, how males can transmit it, and treatments.

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Males can carry the bacteria that cause BV.

BV is an infection that occurs in the vagina.

But males can carry the bacteria that cause BV. The bacteria can accumulate on the penis or in the urethra of males. This means that people carrying the bacteria can transmit it to females by having sex with them.

The closest condition to BV in males is urethritis. This is where the urethra becomes inflamed. The urethra is a tube connecting to the bladder that helps to remove urine from the body. Both males and females have a urethra.

Urethritis is a common condition that affects roughly 2.8 million males in the United States each year. Doctors are unclear what causes urethritis in about 45% of these cases.

Researchers are now exploring associations between BV and urethritis, where there is no clear cause.

Bacterial vaginitis does not cause many symptoms, and those that do develop are typically mild. Some people may not notice any symptoms at all.

Some symptoms of BV include:

  • more vaginal discharge than usual
  • gray-white or yellow vaginal discharge
  • unpleasant smells coming from the vagina, especially after sexual activity

Without treatment, BV can have more severe consequences.

For example, a person with BV may have an increased chance of developing HIV if they have sexual intercourse with someone who has HIV. Having BV also increases the chances of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia.

Pregnant women can also get BV. When this happens, women are more likely to give birth early or to a baby with low birth weight. Pregnant women should make sure they get treatment for BV to avoid these complications.

Urethritis can occur in males and females. In males, symptoms of urethritis include:

For females, the symptoms include:

Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor for treatment.

The infection that causes BV is the result of an overgrowth of certain bacteria coming into contact with the vagina. Bacteria that leads to BV include:

  • Leptotrichia
  • Sneathia
  • Atopobium
  • Megasphaera
  • Clostridiales

Doctors are unclear exactly how these bacteria come into contact with the vagina. People with multiple sexual partners will increase their chances of getting BV.

Using douches may also increase the chances of BV. It is possible for douching to upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina, leading to BV.

Males whose sexual partners have BV are more likely to have these bacteria on the tip of their penis and in the urethra. Those who are circumcised are less likely to carry these bacteria on their skin.

Doctors will treat BV with antibiotics. They may prescribe a pill or antibiotic creams or gels for applying directly to the vagina. These antibiotics help the body kill bacteria causing BV.

Antibiotics are effective in treating BV. But it is still possible for the infection to return after treatment.

People should talk to their doctor about the use of probiotics to help with BV.

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Using a condom during any sexual activity can reduce the risk of BV occurring.

It is often difficult for a person to prevent BV because the exact causes remain unclear. But the following tips can reduce the risk of BV occurring:

  • using condoms during any sexual activity
  • cleaning sex toys after use
  • limiting the number of sexual partners
  • avoiding the use of douches
  • washing the vagina regularly with only warm water
  • wearing underwear made from cotton or with a cotton lining

Sometimes BV will go away on its own. But anyone who experiences symptoms should see a doctor for treatment. In most cases, antibiotics will kill the bacteria quickly, and the symptoms will go away.

People who have had BV are more likely to get the infection again. It is essential to treat the condition every time it occurs. This will reduce the risk of complications, such as other STDs.