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Bacterial Vaginosis Vs. Yeast Infection: How To Distinguish Between The Infections?

Pain along with burning sensation and a foul smell while urinating can be the signs of vaginal infections. But how can you differentiate between them?

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: Apr 26, 2023 16:31 IST
Bacterial Vaginosis Vs. Yeast Infection: How To Distinguish Between The Infections?

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Did you know? Not all bacteria or fungal species are harmful. Some of these microorganisms are an integral part of the female reproductive system. Certain types of bacteria and fungi are normally present in the vagina, which help maintain healthy pH levels and safeguard it from different illnesses. An unnecessary or abnormal growth of such microorganisms can lead to many infections, including Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and yeast infection. These can cause discomforting symptoms that are overlapping in nature and therefore, can make it difficult for you to tell them apart. 

Speaking with the OnlyMyHealth editorial team, Dr Sujata Dutta, Consultant Gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital Anandapur, Kolkata, shared some important points to help distinguish between the two infections. But first let us understand what BV and yeast infection are. 

Also Read: Habits That Can Help You Prevent a UTI

What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?

A pH measurement helps determine the nature of a substance or a solution, both in terms of acidity or alkalinity (basic). Similarly, a vaginal pH level determines how acidic or basic the vagina is. BV is caused by the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, such as Gardnerella vaginalis in the vagina, which can shift the natural pH balance of the vagina and decrease the number of good bacteria. Pain, itching, burning in the vagina, a foul-smell  while urinating, and a thin and a greyish-white vaginal discharge are some of the common symptoms of BV. 

What Is Yeast Infection?

A yeast infection is a type of fungal infection that occurs when there is an overgrowth of yeast and fungi in the vagina. An imbalance can push the yeast to grow rapidly and cause an infection, which can cause irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva. Some of the symptoms of yeast infection can be similar to symptoms associated with BV. Having said that, here’s how you can differentiate between the two infections.

Also Read: Women’s Health: 7 Essential Nutrients For Women In Their 40s

Difference Between Bacterial Vaginosis And Yeast Infection

Dr Dutta says, “BV is caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina, while yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a type of fungus called Candida.”

According to the doctor, the symptoms of BV include a fishy odour, thin greyish-white discharge, and itching or burning in the vagina, whereas yeast infections are characterised by thick, white curd-like discharge, itching, and burning. In addition, while BV makes the vagina more alkaline, yeast infections make it more acidic.

How To Know If It Is Bacterial Vaginosis Or A Yeast Infection?

Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection can both be diagnosed by taking a sample of vaginal discharge and examining it under a microscope, says Dr Dutta. The healthcare provider will examine the vaginal secretions to determine the cause of the infection and recommend a treatment plan accordingly.

Treatment for BV typically involves antibiotics, which can be taken orally or applied as a cream or gel in the vagina. On the other hand, yeast infections are treated with antifungal medications, which can be taken orally, or applied as creams directly to the vagina. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding tight clothing and taking probiotics may also help prevent recurring yeast infections, says Dr Dutta.