Letters To The Editor

Adverse vaginal environment can trigger vaginosis



Adverse vaginal environment can trigger vaginosis

I truly appreciated the formulaic presentation of specific regimens to attempt to eradicate recurrent bacterial vaginosis (BV), and in the future I will probably try one for a confounding case. However, although not the focus of the editorial, I found it disturbing that BV was presented as such a recalcitrant “medical” condition without emphasizing a simple understanding and approach that I have employed for the last 20 years with impressive curative results.

I have “cured” many women who have come to me after having bounced from physician to physician. Understanding that BV is not transmitted but results from an ecosystem imbalance—specifically, the lack of Lactobacillus bacteria and the overgrowth of anaerobes—any environmental manipulation that decreases the resting aerobic bacterial population can trigger the condition of vaginosis (not vaginitis).

My standard checklist, which reflects the multitude of products that pamper the modern vagina but are in fact detrimental, includes: bubble baths, which can leave a film in the vagina similar to that left in the bathtub; all forms of commercial and home-prepared douches; use of tampons extended beyond the heavy menstrual days, which can dry up the resting bacteria; repetitive immersion into a chlorinated (bactericidal) body of water (pool or hot tub); condoms that contain spermicides that are bactericidal as well; any antibacterial soap, especially fragrant liquid variants (great for the hands, awful for the vagina); fabrics like Spandex, pantyhose, and polyester that do not allow the aerobic bacteria to survive; noncotton underwear that does not let the vagina “breathe”; popular brands of scented and unscented winged pantyliners that suffocate the vaginal outlet; prolonged compression by the devoted long-distance cyclist and spa spinner; vaginal atrophy; and, anatomically, closely opposed labia, which can contribute to a chronically anaerobic vaginal environment through obstruction. When these factors are discussed and addressed, you would be surprised how much “recurrent” BV can be avoided, and therefore effectively treated.

Michael Abrahams, MD
New York, New York

Dr. Barbieri responds

I thank Dr. Abrahams for sharing his expert advice. I agree that reducing environmental exposures that inhibit the growth of vaginal lactobacilli is important in treating recurrent BV.

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