Take charge of your health. Sign up for HealthyWomen newsletters:
Healthy Living

Infection Detection: Yeast Beast or Something More Serious?

By Sally Jones

Created: 08/20/2012
Last Updated: 07/24/2018

Share on:

If it's itchy down there, it must be a yeast infection, right? Wrong.

Before you run to the drugstore for an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-fungal treatment, you might want to re-evaluate your symptoms. An estimated 44 percent of women with a vaginal infection initially treat themselves with an OTC yeast infection medication when they actually have bacterial vaginosis (BV), a much more serious infection caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that occur naturally in the vagina.

Bacterial Vaginosis A-Z Guide

A yeast infection, on the other hand, is caused by an overgrowth of fungus that occur naturally in the vagina.

Yeast Infection A-Z Guide

In fact, the outward symptoms of many forms of vaginal infection are similar. Here's a quick chart to help you detect whether it's the yeast beast -- or something more serious.

If your discharge is a milky gray-white, or if it's accompanied by a fishy or foul odor, see your doctor right away. OTC yeast-infection medications are not an effective treatment for bacterial vaginal infections and, in fact, may be harmful if they delay proper treatment.

Untreated BV can lead to significant health complications, including premature delivery, postpartum infections, clinically apparent and subclinical pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), postsurgical complications (after abortion, hysterectomy, cesarean section and other reproductive procedures), increased vulnerability to HIV infection and, possibly, infertility.

How to tell if your symptoms indicate BV?

Take HealthyWomen's Bacterial Vaginosis Quiz

For quick reference to gynecological and other tests or to track your doctor visits and health care provider contacts, download our free iPhone app:

My Health Record Keeper


I am suffering for almost two years of unexplained vaginal discharge. Sometimes the color is yellowish, sometimes its grayish. It has a fishy odor, and if I cant wash after 4hrs, it causes itching. During sex, I am bleeding and it is so painful. I have an ob-gynecologist checked me over a year ago and she gave me a prescription. It gets well and better in a period of 3 to 4 months. And I dont have any sexual intercourse. Aafter 4 mnths I noticed that its coming bck again. Now im afraid. Pls help me. Tnx.

Thank you so much for this valuable information. It is people like you that really make a difference in the lives of people with yeast infection. I suffered for 12 years from yeast infection and nothing I tried worked. Drugs, nutrition, all types of doctors...you name it--the suffering never really went away. Fortunately, I found out about a natural way that finally got rid of my yeast infection for good. This article talks about it... http://www.bestquicktips.com/yeast_infection Hope it helps and keep up the good work!


Add new comment