Some women are slow to seek help for vulvovaginal symptoms because they feel uncomfortable discussing them with their doctor. Fortunately, some gynecologists are committed to helping women with these concerns and have even developed diagnostic tools to assist the process. The vaginal microflora test is one such tool. But what is a vaginal microflora test, and should you consider getting one?
What Is A Vaginal Microflora Test?
The vaginal microflora (VFA) test is designed to detect an altered vaginal microflora pattern. An altered vaginal microflora pattern occurs due to a shift in the bacterial milieu and is therefore different from the known patterns of flora.
The VFA test was developed by vulvovaginal specialist Dr. R. Stuart Fowler of Fowler GYN International (FGI). The VFA test identifies the following components of the vaginal discharge:
- Quantity and concentration levels of ‘good’ bacteria
- Quantity of harmful bacteria present
- The main type of white blood cells (if present)
- The relative concentration of white blood cells present
- The relative concentration of squamous cells being exfoliated
- The degree of maturity or maturation of the vaginal squamous cells present
- The concentration of yeast present (if any)
The quantitative analysis provided by the VFA test is more comprehensive than the wet-prep pelvic exam traditionally used to diagnose bacterial vaginosis.
The results of the VFA test will verify if the vagina is in a healthy state or has an altered vaginal microflora pattern.
Should You Consider A Vaginal Microflora Test
The vaginal microflora consists of 30+ strains of bacteria, of which lactobacilli are the most dominant. Lactobacilli maintain the slightly acidic pH of the vaginal ecosystem. The acidic environment acts as a defense mechanism against the growth of harmful bacteria and other pathogens.
If there is a change in the composition of the vaginal ecosystem and lactobacilli no longer dominate, pathogens may flourish and take their place.
When the delicate balance of microorganisms is upset, it can lead to a variety of symptoms. These include itching, odor, excessive discharge, burning pain, urinary urgency, and urinary frequency. A VFA test can be very beneficial for women experiencing these vulvovaginal symptoms because it identifies the constituents of the vaginal fluid.
A VFA test is also helpful for women with vaginal symptoms that doctors have been unable to diagnose. These symptoms are often related to the changes that have taken place in the vaginal microflora.
Understanding The Symptoms Of An Altered Vaginal Microflora
Although altered vaginal microflora patterns are not harmful, they can produce uncomfortable symptoms.
The symptoms associated with an altered vaginal microflora occur due to the change in the composition of the vaginal discharge. The vaginal secretions help keep the vagina clean and prevent the spread of infection.
However, when there is a shift in the bacterial milieu, the vaginal secretions are no longer neutral, and they irritate the tissues at the vaginal opening.
Treating Altered Vaginal Microflora
FGI treats altered vaginal microflora with a customized treatment protocol. The treatment plan typically consists of medications designed to restore balance to the vaginal microflora. It usually takes about 8 months for patients to experience an improvement in symptoms.
FGI also recommends using hypocontactant skincare products to resolve the problem of sensitive external genitalia tissue. The combination of products is free of preservatives and fragrances that can irritate the vaginal tissues.