Taking good care of penis health is a worthy and admirable goal, and those that do it should be commended. Of course, there are numerous factors that can potentially have an impact on penis health, so being knowledgeable about all of them is difficult. One of the more surprising conditions that can impact penis health is Gardnerella vaginalis.
About Gardnerella vaginalis
Named after the doctor Hermann Gardner, who discovered it in 1955, Gardnerella vaginalis (sometimes called G. vaginalis) is a bacterium which can produce a pore-forming toxin known as vaginolysin or bacterial vaginosis. In such situations, a battle is set up between good bacteria and bad bacteria in the vagina, with the bad bacteria ultimately getting the upper hand. It can occur as a result of sexual intercourse, douching, or use of an IUD. It also may occur naturally during pregnancy.
The most common sign associated with Gardnerella vaginalis and subsequent bacterial vaginosis is a distinctly fishy odor, often accompanied by a yellowish or grayish discharge.
As these names and descriptions indicate, this is a condition commonly found in women – so much so that it is almost universally considered a women’s disease. So why is it in an article about penis health?
Men can also contract Gardnerella vaginalis, although the exact incidence of contraction is widely disputed. Some researchers estimate that fewer than 1% of men ever contract Gardnerella; others believe it could affect as many as 38% of men. One of the reasons for the wide variation is that it very often presents without symptoms in men – and therefore many men might have it without ever knowing it or (more importantly) suffering any consequences from it.
However, by the same token, a man might contract Gardnerella without knowing it and have it affect his penis health – but not realize it until the effects have become obvious.
For example, there have been cases in which a man has gone to the doctor because he was experiencing urinary tract problems. This can manifest as a need to urinate much more frequently and with a much greater urgency, which can in some situations lead to an incontinence issue. This is often accompanied by the presence of blood (both red blood cells and white blood cells) in the urine.
In some instances, a lower urinary tract infection due to Gardnefrella has been associated with scarring of the kidney, which can impact that organ’s health and functionality. Cystitis, a sometimes painful inflammation of the bladder, is also a possible side effect.
In intact men, Gardnerella and the resulting infection can bring about balanoposthitis. This is a swelling of both the glans and the foreskin. Painful in and of itself, it can also create additional pain if it results in the foreskin being unable to retract when the penis becomes erect.
There is also the potential for some much more serious complications – although again, these tend to be very rare. Sepsis, an extreme reaction to infection which can destroy tissue and organs, has been reported, as has pulmonary abscess, a deterioration of lung tissue.
Since men are most often asymptomatic for Gardnerella and women are much more likely to exhibit symptoms and know of their status, men who have had sex with a woman with bacterial vaginitis should let their doctor know. He may then want to test a semen sample to determine if the Gardnerella has been passed on to the male partner.
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