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Difference Between Yeast Infection and Bacterial Vaginosis
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By Jack D. Sobel, MD

Professor and Division Chief
Division of Infectious Diseases
Harper University Hospital
Detroit, MI

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Q: What is the difference between a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis?

It's common for women to be confused between the two. A recent online survey, "Do You Really Know What's Causing Your Vaginal Discharge?" conducted among 1,966 women age 15 and older, revealed that almost 22 percent thought their vaginal discharge was caused by a yeast infection, even though the symptoms described by 57 percent of the respondents were consistent with bacterial vaginosis (BV).

Both yeast infections and BV are vaginal infections and are common causes of vaginal discharge, but the two conditions are not the same, and they require different treatments.

With BV, women may occasionally experience itching and/or burning in or around the outside of the vagina. The discharge is quite different from that of a yeast infection. It may be thin and milky, white or grayish, with a mild to strong, fishy odor, especially after sex.

BV is not sexually transmitted and often occurs when there is a change in the vaginal pH and your vagina has more harmful bacteria than good bacteria. Douching or having multiple sex partners (or a new sex partner) can increase your risk of BV.

Common symptoms of a yeast infection are vaginal itching and burning and a thick, white discharge resembling cottage cheese. Typically, there is no odor.

The risk of a yeast infection increases with pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes or the use oral birth control or estrogen hormone therapy. Douching, vaginal sprays, certain antibiotics or steroid medications and a weakened immune system also increase the risk of contracting a yeast infection.

For more information on BV, visit KeepHerAwesome.com

This resource was developed with the support of Symbiomix Therapeutics, LLC.

References

  1. Survey results from “Do You Really Know What’s Causing Your Discharge?” (online survey conducted by HealthyWomen and Symbiomix Therapeutics, LLC, in the first quarter of 2017). Results on file with HealthyWomen and Symbiomix Therapeutics, LLC. 2017.
  2. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/bacterial-vaginosis
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
  4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/basics/risk-factors/con-20035129