What’s the Difference between Bacterial Vaginosis and Yeast Infections?

So, someone’s experiencing some itching between her legs. That isn’t an immediate cause for concern. Alright, and unusual discharge. Just like how you’d know you’ve pulled a muscle or have a sore throat, you’re in tune with your vagina, and you know when things aren’t feeling the way they should. Now that you’ve established that something is up down there, what could it be?

 

Is it a yeast infection?

Many women (up to 75% at some point in their lifetime) have had the uncomfortable experience of having a yeast infection. Yeast infections, medically known as candidiasis, are caused by an imbalance of fungal yeast in the vagina. Yes, don’t worry. It’s supposed to be there. But sometimes, as we all occasionally do, it gets a little out of control, and the yeast cells spread too rapidly. When this happens you have yourself a good ol’ yeast infection. So what are the symptoms?

 

  • Itching and irritation of the vagina and/or vulva
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva
  • Vaginal pain and soreness
  • Thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge

 

Now before you’re all like, “Yes! I have a yeast infection!” and rev up your scooter to head to the nearest drugstore, know that it could be something else…

 

Is it bacterial vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is often mistaken to be a yeast infection because of the very similar symptoms. But there are some key differences to make note of. Especially since undiagnosed  BV, or BV treated with the wrong medicines can lead to more serious issues, it’s important to make sure which you have. There’s a good type of bacteria that hangs out in your vagina called lactobacillus, and its job, to put it simply, is to keep bad bacteria in check. If your levels of lactobacillus drop the bad bacteria can multiply and, as you might have guessed, that does gnarly things to your vagina. Here are some of the symptoms of BV:

 

  • Itching & irritation of the vagina and/or vulva
  • A thin white or gray vaginal discharge
  • A fishlike odor of the discharge

 

The main difference between yeast infections and BV is the type of discharge. Yeast infections usually produce a thick, odor-free discharge while BV discharge is smellier and thinner. Also, people with BV might notice their discharge is especially stinky after sex. Itching and soreness, while they can be a symptom of both scenarios, are more common in yeast infections.

 

Often, women who’ve had yeast infections before misdiagnose their BV as yet another yeast infection. If you’re still not sure which you have— and that’s a-okay, you’re not a doctor— you can order a vaginitis screen online that’ll clarify that for you. You can also go see a doctor.

Once you know if you have BV or a yeast infection, you can head over to your local pharmacy. Metronidazole gel and Clindamycin cream are the most common and accessible treatments for BV and often come with applicators to insert the medicine into your vagina. It should be noted to not use latex condoms while using Clindamycin cream. It’s also important to go through the entire treatment, whichever you choose, even if symptoms clear up after a day or two.

Metronizdazole cream is used to treat Bacterial Vaginosis

Metronizdazole cream is used to treat Bacterial Vaginosis

If you successfully treat BV, first of all, congrats! Second, you’re probably wondering how to steer clear of getting it again. Unfortunately there isn’t one guaranteed method of prevention, but doctors recommend to not douche because that messes with your vagina’s normal balance of bacteria. External rinsing in the shower will suffice! Do it while the conditioner is sitting in your hair.

 

So know your facts! The key is the discharge! That’s a sentence that in any other context would be inappropriate to say, but there’s no shame in taking charge of your vaginal and sexual health! Hooray!