Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections are two common conditions that can affect the vagina and cause discomfort and other symptoms. While they may have some similarities, they are actually caused by different types of organisms and have distinct characteristics and treatment options. Understanding the differences between BV and yeast infections can help individuals accurately identify and effectively treat these conditions.
Bacterial vaginosis is a condition that occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina becomes disrupted. The vagina normally contains a mixture of good and bad bacteria, and BV occurs when the bad bacteria outnumber the good. This can lead to an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria, such as Gardnerella vaginalis, which can cause an unpleasant smell, discharge, and irritation.
Although BV is not a STI (sexually transmitted infection), it is more prevalent in those who are sexually active and can be spread through sex. Women who have several sexual partners or who use particular birth control methods, including diaphragms or condoms, are also more likely to experience it.
Symptoms of BV may include:
- Vaginal discharge that is thin, gray, or white in color and has a fishy smell
- Itching or burning in the vagina
- Pain during urination or sexual intercourse
On the other side, a fungus called Candida overgrowth results in yeast infections. Naturally occurring Candida is found in small levels in the vagina, but if the vagina's bacterial balance is upset, it can overgrow and result in a yeast infection.
Although yeast infections are not STIs, they can still be spread through intercourse. Antibiotic use, immune system weakness, and high estrogen levels, such as during pregnancy or hormone therapy, are risk factors for yeast infections.
Symptoms of a yeast infection may include:
- Vaginal discharge that is thick, white, and resembles cottage cheese
- Itching, burning, or redness in the vagina and vulva
- Pain during urination or sexual intercourse
It is important to note that both BV and yeast infections can cause similar symptoms, such as vaginal discharge and itching. However, there are some key differences between the two conditions that can help individuals accurately identify which condition they have.
One of the main differences between BV and yeast infections is the type of discharge they produce. BV is characterized by a thin, gray or white discharge with a fishy smell, while a yeast infection typically causes a thick, white discharge that resembles cottage cheese. Another difference is the location of the symptoms. BV can cause discomfort in the vagina, while a yeast infection may cause discomfort in the vulva, which is the area around the opening of the vagina.
Although they are not classified as STIs, yeast infections can nevertheless spread during intercourse. Utilizing antibiotics, having a compromised immune system, and having high amounts of estrogen, such as during pregnancy or when taking hormone therapy, are risk factors for yeast infections.
In conclusion, BV and yeast infections are two common conditions that can affect the vagina and cause discomfort and other symptoms. While they may have some similarities, they are actually caused by different types of organisms and have distinct characteristics and treatment options. Understanding the differences between BV and yeast infections can help individuals accurately identify and effectively treat these conditions. If you are experiencing symptoms of either condition, it is important to see a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Visit our treatment options in BV and yeast infection here.
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- "Bacterial Vaginosis." World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 1 Mar. 2018, www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/rtis/bacterial-vaginosis/en/.
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- "Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) in Men and Women." WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/candidiasis-yeast-infection#1.