Bacterial Vaginosis Vs Yeast Infection: How To Tell The Difference

bv vs yeast infection
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman

Key Takeaways

  1. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by the bacterium Gardnerella vaginalis while the fungus Candida albicans cause vaginal yeast infection. Both require different treatment courses.
  2. Both have similar symptoms like pain, itching, discomfort, and pain while urinating. However, the changes in vaginal discharge, color, and smell can vary.
  3. Smoking, unprotected sex, vaginal douching, and having multiple sexual partners put you at risk for developing BV, whereas antibiotics, contraceptives, hormonal changes, and a weak immune system cause yeast infections.


Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection, as the name suggests, caused by Gardnerella vaginalis, while a fungus, usually Candida, causes vaginal yeast infections. These infections go hand in hand, but the causal agents are different for both; that’s why the infections are treated according to the organism which caused them. Both symptoms are similar, including pain, discomfort, itching, and difficulty urinating. Both infections may cause vaginal irritation. This blog will explore the causes, differences, similarities, treatments, and prevention for both vaginal infections. 

Difference Between BV and Yeast Infections

There are many differences between bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection. For example: 

  1. Causal Agent

One main difference between the two is the organism causing the infection. In BV, it is a gram-negative bacteria; in the case of yeast infections, it is caused by yeast that causes vaginal infection. 

  1. Symptoms

Apart from some similar symptoms discussed above, each disease has many distinct symptoms, for example, discharge color, odor, pain, itching, rashes, or redness. 

Sr.DifferencesBacterial VaginosisVaginal Yeast Infection
1.DischargeThin, gray, or white vaginal dischargeThick, white discharge like cottage cheese
2.OdorFoul or Fishy SmellNo vaginal odor
3.PainDiscomfortPain and Discomfort
4.Burning Sensation Burning while urinatingBurning while intercourse 
5. RednessNo redness or inflammation Redness or inflammation
  1. Link with STD

Bacterial Vaginosis or yeast infection neither of them is a sexually transmitted infection, but a patient suffering from BV is more prone to sexually transmitted infections, according to CDC.

  1. Risk Factors

BV is caused by the disruption of natural vaginal flora like lactobacillus due to causes like smoking, having multiple sexual partners, unprotected sex, and vaginal douching. In contrast, yeast infections are caused by taking certain antibiotics or having a weak immune system. 

Consult a Doctor to Diagnose Whether Your Symptoms Indicate a Yeast Infection or Bacterial Vaginosis!

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) vs Yeast Infection Causes

There are different causes for both types of infections which can be summarised as follows: 

  1. BV Causes 

Imbalance of natural vaginal flora, i.e., lack of Lactobacillus bacteria. Vaginal Douching is another cause that can lead to the reduction of lactobacillus and the growth of harmful bacteria that result in Bacterial Vaginosis. In douching, the inside of the vagina is cleaned after intercourse for personal hygiene or to prevent pregnancy. This cleaning is done through a liquid solution that is usually a mixture of water and vinegar, which causes changes in pH and, ultimately, an imbalance in vaginal flora. Other causes include: 

  • Smoking
  • Unprotected Sex
  • Multiple Sexual Partners
  • Sudden hormonal fluctuations, such as during menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy, also change the pH.
  1. Yeast Infection causes

Candida albicans is the causative agent of this condition. Candida is naturally present in the vagina; however, lactobacillus keeps its growth in check. A decrease in the development of lactobacillus causes unchecked growth of Candida, which causes vaginal yeast infections. Other causes that contribute are: 

How to Tell If It’s BV or Yeast Infection – Diagnosis

To determine whether it is bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection, your doctor may ask questions like these to diagnose the infection cause in a virtual examination correctly: 

  • When did the infection start? 
  • What does the discharge look like?
  • How would you rate the discomfort?
  • What is your medical history of sexually transmitted diseases?

In physical examination, they can perform a pelvic exam to see the signs and symptoms and test the vaginal discharge to see if it is fungus or bacteria. A pH of 4.5 or above indicates a bacterial vaginosis infection, while the fungus causing yeast infections usually grow on pH 4-4.5.

Is the Prevention for BV and Yeast Infections the Same?

Primarily due to uncertain and unfortunate conditions, it is not always foreseeable to prevent these infections, but the following tips can help reduce the chances of contracting an infection: 

  • Avoid vaginal douching and rinsing to avoid flushing out natural vaginal flora
  • Use unscented products like tampons or soaps
  • Substitute tight-fitted clothes with something loose and comfortable that doesn’t trap moisture
  • Make sure to have protective sex to avoid contracting the infection from your partner
  • Keep your vagina clean and dry after using the washroom
  • Wear breathable cotton clothes, especially in the summers
  • Take probiotics to restore your healthy vaginal flora

What is the Difference in Treatment

The treatment courses for both infections differ as per the infection’s severity. Here are some of the medications that are recommended for each infection: 

For Bacterial Vaginosis: As the causal agent is a bacteria, an antibiotic course is essential to limit its growth as: 

On the contrary, for yeast infections following antifungal medicines are recommended by doctors: 

  • Single dose oral medicine – Fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • Creams / Ointments and Pill form –  Terconazole (Terazol)
  • Creams / Ointments and Pill form –  Miconazole (Monistat)

These medicines are effective against mild symptoms, but for severe infections, your doctor may suggest you a lengthy antifungal medication course. In addition, some strains of Candida are resistant to these medicines, so in that case, they might not work, and your doctor may suggest alternatives. Moreover, to maintain pH, boric acid or probiotics have also been effective in some cases by maintaining pH, reducing infections, and restoring healthy bacteria that limit the growth of harmful ones. 

Consult a Doctor to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis or Yeast Infection!

Are There Any Similarities Between BV and Yeast Infection

There are many similarities between both infections that can often confuse diagnoses, such as: 

  • Both cause vaginitis or vaginal inflammation
  • An imbalance in the natural vaginal flora of microorganisms causes both
  • Both cause pain, discomfort, itching, and difficulty in urinating

When to Consult a Doctor

Whether you think it is bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection, it is better to consult your healthcare provider as they may recommend tests that can better identify the cause, and thus you can be treated accordingly.

FAQs About Yeast vs. BV Answered by Your Doctors Online Team

Can bv turn into a yeast infection?

There are chances that you can contract both infections at the same time, bacterial vaginosis as well as yeast. Therefore, if you notice both symptoms, get a consultation from your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Does BV itch like a yeast infection?

Yes, itching is common in bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and pain and discomfort. 

What is the difference between yeast infection and BV discharge?

Most of the symptoms of both diseases are the same, but the appearance of discharge differs significantly. Bacterial vaginosis causes a thin gray-to-white discharge with a fishy smell, while yeast infection causes a thick, odorless cottage cheese-like discharge.

How to test bv or yeast infection?

To check if the infection is bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection, your doctor can run a test to check the pH of vaginal secretion. If it is 4.5 or higher, then it’s BV. If it is less than 4.5, it is a yeast infection. Another way to distinguish between them is BV cause a foul fish-like smell in discharge, while yeast infection is usually odorless. 

Can You Pass BV or a Yeast Infection to a Sexual Partner?

Although these bacterial and fungal infections are not sexually transmitted diseases, a person suffering from bacterial vaginosis has a higher chance of contracting sexually transmitted infections, and it is possible for your partner to get the fungal infection.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Egan, M. E. (2000, September 1). Diagnosis of vaginitis. American Family Physician. 625, 1095-1104
  • Stricker, T., Navratil, F., & Sennhauser, F. H. (2002, September 19). Vulvovaginitis in prepubertal girls.Archives of Disease in Childhood. 88:324–326
  • CDC fact sheet. Trichomoniasis


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