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:
- 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.
Apart from some similar symptoms discussed above, each disease has many distinct symptoms, for example, discharge color, odor, pain, itching, rashes, or redness.
|Sr.||Differences||Bacterial Vaginosis||Vaginal Yeast Infection|
|1.||Discharge||Thin, gray, or white vaginal discharge||Thick, white discharge like cottage cheese|
|2.||Odor||Foul or Fishy Smell||No vaginal odor|
|3.||Pain||Discomfort||Pain and Discomfort|
|4.||Burning Sensation||Burning while urinating||Burning while intercourse|
|5.||Redness||No redness or inflammation||Redness or inflammation|
- 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.
- 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.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) vs Yeast Infection Causes
There are different causes for both types of infections which can be summarised as follows:
- 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:
- Unprotected Sex
- Multiple Sexual Partners
- Sudden hormonal fluctuations, such as during menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy, also change the pH.
- 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:
- Contraceptives or birth control pills
- Weak Immunity
- Diabetes or High blood sugar
- Intercourse with a new partner
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:
- Vaginal Gel – Metronidazole
- Pill- Metronidazle (Flagyl) or Tinidazole (Tindamax)
- Cream / Ointment – Clindamycin (Cleocin)
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.
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
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.
Yes, itching is common in bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and pain and discomfort.
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.
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.
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.