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Gardnerella infection: what is it, symptoms and treatment options

Gardnerella vaginalis and Gardnerella mobiluncus are two types of bacteria that normally live in the vagina without causing any symptoms. However, when they multiply too much, they can cause an infection popularly known as bacterial vaginosis, which lead to the production of a gray-white discharge and a strong smell.

Treatment is done with antibiotics, such as Metronidazole or Clindamycin in tablets, or with ointments that must be applied to the vagina, although in some cases, proper washing of the area can eliminate the infection.

Gardnerella infection occurs more frequently in women, as the bacterium is part of the normal vaginal microbiota, but men can also be infected through unprotected sex, without a condom, with an infected partner.

Gardnerella infection: what is it, symptoms and treatment options

Main symptoms of Gardnerella

Gardnerella can appear in different ways in men and women, with one or more of the following symptoms:

Symptoms in womanSymptoms in man

White or grayish discharge

Redness in the foreskin, glans or urethra
Small blisters on the vagina

Pain when peeing

Foul-smelling odor that gets worse after unprotected intimate contact

Itchy penis

Pain during intimate contact

Yellowish discharge from the urethra

It is more normal for an infection by Gardnerella not to cause any symptoms in most men and so treatment may not be necessary. However, if it happens very often in the woman, the doctor may recommend the man to also undergo the treatment, as he may be passing it back to the woman, especially if they have sexual intercourse without a condom.

In addition, if the infection occurs simultaneously with other bacteria, women may experience inflammation in the uterus and tubes, which can lead to infertility if treatment isn’t done.

What causes Gardnerella infection

There is no specific cause for this type of infection, however, it is more common in women with risk factors such as those with multiple sexual partners, smokers, those who practice regular vaginal washing, or those who use an IUD as a contraceptive method.

Therefore, genital Gardnerella infection isn’t considered an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) and the disease's incubation period is 2 to 21 days, which is the time that the bacteria is present, but the symptoms don't manifest.

How to diagnose the infection

The diagnosis of the infection can be done in a gynecological office, where the doctor can see the signs of infection, especially any discharge and the typical odor. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may also recommend a vaginal culture, in which the vaginal secretion is collected for microbiological analysis.

It is possible to confirm the bacteria responsible for the infection from the analysis of the secretion and, so, the appropriate treatment can be started.

For men, the diagnosis must be made by the urologist, who analyses the symptoms and assesses penile secretion.

What are the treatment options

Gardnerella infection is easy to cure, and its treatment is usually done with antibiotics, such as metronidazole, secnidazole, or clindamycin, in tablets or ointments that must be applied to the intimate area.

Generally, the treatment lasts about 7 days for the antibiotic in tablets, or 5 days for the ointments. During this time, keep up adequate intimate hygiene practices, washing only the external genital area with soap that is pH neutral or appropriate for the area.

Treatment should only be done on pregnant women with antibiotics in tablet form, prescribed by the gynecologist, as well as the proper hygiene of the area.

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