Bacterial Vaginosis vs Yeast Infection
For most women, vaginal infections are a common occurrence — in fact, three out of four women will have a vaginal infection at some point in their lives. Two of the most common vaginal infections are bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection.
Although both infections can cause itching, burning, and unusual discharge, there are significant differences between them. To help you understand which infection you're dealing with, let's take a closer look at them both.
What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. The vagina naturally contains a mix of both good and bad bacteria, which maintain a delicate balance. When the balance is disrupted, the bad bacteria can overgrow, leading to bacterial vaginosis.
BV is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age, affecting around 35 percent of women. It's not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but having multiple sexual partners and engaging in unprotected sex can increase the risk of developing BV.
What Is a Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection — also known as vaginal candidiasis — is an infection caused by the overgrowth of a fungus called Candida. Candida is normally present in small amounts in the vagina, mouth, and digestive tract. However, when there is an imbalance in the body — or the immune system is weakened — Candida can grow excessively, leading to a yeast infection.
Yeast infections are fairly common, affecting about 75 percent of women at some point in their lives. They are not STIs and can occur in women of all ages — even those who have never had sexual intercourse.
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
The exact cause of bacterial vaginosis is unknown, but it's thought to be caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.
This can be caused by the following:
- Douching, which can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina
- Having a new sexual partner or multiple partners
- Using perfumed soaps, bubble baths, and other scented products
- Having a history of sexually transmitted infections
- Using intrauterine devices (IUDs) for contraception
What Causes Yeast Infections?
As mentioned previously, yeast infections are usually caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida.
This can be triggered by:
- Taking antibiotics, which can reduce the levels of good bacteria in the body
- Having a weakened immune system due to illness or stress
- Pregnancy, which can change hormone levels
- Diabetes, which can make it easier for yeast to grow
- Using perfumed soaps and bubble baths
- Wearing tight-fitting underwear or clothing
What Are the Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?
The symptoms of bacterial vaginosis can vary from person to person. Some may not experience any symptoms, while others may notice uncomfortable developments such as:
- A thin, gray, or white vaginal discharge
- A foul, fishy odor, especially after sexual intercourse
- Vaginal itching or irritation
- Burning sensation during urination
It's important to note that not all women will experience these symptoms, but if you suspect you have BV, it's essential to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.
What Are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections can also cause symptoms that vary from person to person. Common signs and symptoms may include:
- Thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese
- Itching and burning in the vagina and vulva
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Burning sensation while urinating
It's important to keep in mind that these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as bacterial vaginosis or sexually transmitted infections, so it's best to get an accurate diagnosis from a health professional.
What Is the Difference Between BV and a Yeast Infection?
While both BV and yeast infections can cause some similar symptoms, there are a few key differences between the two.
We’ve made a chart to sum it all up:
Imbalance of bacteria in the vagina
Overgrowth of Candida fungus
Color of Discharge
Thin, gray, or white
Fishy odor, especially after sex
Usually, an odorless or yeasty smell
Vaginal itching or burning, pain while urinating
Intense vaginal itching, redness, swelling, and soreness, pain during intercourse, or burning while urinating
How Are Bacterial Vaginosis and Yeast Infections Treated?
Treating bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections requires different medications. BV is typically treated with antibiotic medications, either in the form of pills or vaginal creams. It's essential to follow your healthcare provider's instructions and complete the full course of treatment, even if your symptoms improve before finishing the medication.
On the other hand, yeast infections are treated with antifungal medications, often in the form of a cream, ointment, suppository inserted into the vagina, or oral medication. Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are available to tackle yeast overgrowth, but it's important to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
If you’re looking for something easy and generally safe, try The Killer®. This is a boric acid suppository that can encourage a healthy balance of vaginal flora to ease uncomfortable symptoms of infection.*
How Can You Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis and Yeast Infections?
Vaginal infections can often be prevented by practicing good hygiene and taking measures to keep the vagina healthy. Here are some tips to help prevent bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
Practice Good Hygiene
Keeping yourself clean and dry is one of the best ways to prevent infections. Make sure to wash the area around your vulva regularly with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser like our pH Balancing Cleanser™ and pat the area dry with a clean towel after showering or bathing.
Avoid wearing tight, synthetic clothing that can trap moisture, as this can create an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast to grow.
Practice Safe Sex
Sex can introduce bacteria and yeast into the vagina, so it's important to practice safe sex by using condoms or dental dams. Additionally, it's a good idea to urinate after sex to help flush out any bacteria that may have entered the urethra.
Douching is the process of washing out the inside of the vagina with water or other solutions. It's important to avoid this practice, as it can quickly disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina, making it easier for infections to develop.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help maintain the balance of bacteria in the vagina. Eating foods that are high in probiotics, such as yogurt and kimchi, or taking probiotic supplements, such as our Good Girl Probiotics®, can help ease infections.*
Keep Stress Levels in Check
Stress can have a negative impact on the body's immune system, which can make it easier for infections to develop. To reduce stress, try practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the differences between bacterial vaginosis and vaginal yeast infections is essential for maintaining good vaginal health. By recognizing the symptoms, seeking appropriate treatment, and practicing preventative measures, you can minimize your risk of developing these infections and ensure you're well-equipped to handle them if they do occur.
Don't hesitate to consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions about your vaginal health. Before trying any at-home treatments, make sure you consult with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.
If you’re looking for convenient and high-quality ways to support your vaginal health, check out our online selection of cleansers, suppositories, vitamins, and more. At Love Wellness, we understand the importance of women’s health, and we’re here to support your wellness journey with doctor-developed solutions that are safer and more effective.
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