Bacterial Vaginosis vs. Yeast Infection

When it comes to bacterial vaginosis vs. yeast infections, the differences can be in the detail. It is important to ask yourself some questions that will point to the differences in discharge and symptomatic characteristics.

  • An estimated seventy-five percent of women will at some point in their lives get a yeast infection, while between forty and forty-five percent will get two or more infections – CDC.
  • If not properly treated, or if left untreated completely, BV may end up setting you for serious health concerns at a later date.
  • Over the last few years, an estimated twenty-nine percent of women have had to deal with a case of bacterial vaginosis, according to the

Below is a look at yeast infection vs. bacterial vaginosis. We will look at their discharge, differences, symptoms, and a quiz that can be used to quickly determine which of these two vaginal infections is affecting you.

Is it a yeast infection or BV?

A vaginal yeast infection can be described as an infection brought about by yeast (a kind of fungus). The fungal infections are at times referred to as yeast vaginitis, Candidal vulvovaginitis, or Candidal vaginitis.

Candida is the scientific name for this particular yeast responsible for causing vaginitis. According to CDC estimates, more than ninety percent of vaginal yeast infections are brought about by the Candida albicans species, while the remaining Candida species are responsible for the other infections.

  • Also referred to as vaginal bacteriosis, bacterial vaginosis is the leading cause of vaginal infection among women who are in their reproductive years.
  • Even though it commonly develops after engaging in sexual intimacy with a new partner, the condition is not categorized as an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
  • Women who have not had sexual intercourse in the past can also develop the condition.

Is it a yeast infection or BV? Vaginal thrush and BV are two of the leading complaints among women in their childbearing years. For many years, doctors had gained a better understanding of thrush and were capable of easily treating it as compared to bacterial vaginosis.

Thinking that they had gained a full understanding of the condition, many physicians got a common misconception that any pain, itching, and abnormal discharge occurring in the vaginal area had to had been brought about by Candida.

Currently, it has become known that bacterial vaginosis is as common as vaginal thrush. It will appear in about a third of all women and will require different treatments than those used for vaginal yeast.

For the right treatment to be provided, the affected woman, and the treating medic will need to run tests to establish, which of these two complaints they are dealing with.

Differences: Bacterial vaginosis vs. yeast infection

What is the difference between BV and yeast infections? Here is a comparison from symptoms to risk factors.


Vaginal Yeast InfectionBacterial Vaginosis
1.       Caused by Candida albicans—a fungus species

2.       Vaginal discharge that is traditionally thick

3.       Whitish-gray in color, and

4.       Odorless

5.       Discharge tends to have a cottage-cheese-like consistency

Additional symptoms include

1.       Intense itching of your genital or vaginal area

2.       Burning and irritation

3.       Experience pain when engaging in sexual intimacy

4.       Redness, soreness, or irritation of your vagina or vulva: in some cases, your vagina may become really swollen

5.       Experience a burning sensation or pain when you are urinating

1.       Caused by an imbalance of vaginal bacteria, which then leads to the formation of bacterial vaginosis

2.       Most women with BV do not show any symptoms

3.       When the symptoms start to show, they include:

a.       Itching

b.      Vaginal discharge

c.       Burning

4.       The vaginal discharge could:

a.        having a strong and very unpleasant smell, which is in many cases described as being fishy

b.      Be watery and very thin

c.       Be white or gray in color

Additional symptoms, which are less common, but which could be present include:

1.       Itching around the outer area of your vagina

2.       Experiencing a burning sensation each time you feel the urge to urinate


Risk Factors

Vaginal Yeast InfectionBacterial Vaginosis
1.       Women with a condition that may result in decreased immune functions will more likely develop a vaginal yeast infection. It includes women:

a.       Who have cancer

b.      Or are receiving chemotherapy treatment

c.       Who are taking steroidal medication

d.      Have diabetes

e.      A pregnant woman, as well as a female who is taking an oral contraceptive,  will also be at an increased threat of getting a vaginal yeast problem.

2.       When you take antibiotics for any reason, it has the potential of altering your normal bacterial populations inside your vagina, which may predispose you to yeast overgrowth.

3.       Taking measures to reduce the overall moisture content present in your vagina may reduce your chances of developing this type of yeast infection.

Additionally, you should consider:

1.       Wearing underwear with a cotton crotch or cotton underwear

2.       Always wearing pants that are not too tight—they should be loose fitting

3.       Avoiding prolonged wearing of bathing suits or wet workout gear

These measures will assist in controlling the moisture content present in your genital region. Therefore, your chances of getting a vaginal fungal infection will be significantly reduced.

1.       Any woman can develop bacterial vaginosis

2.       The risk factors known to increase your chances of getting this condition include:

a.       Using water, or a medicated solution to clean your vagina or to douche

b.      Washing your underwear using very strong detergents

c.       Having a shower using antiseptic liquids

d.      Smoking

e.      Engaging in sexual intimacy with a new partner

f.        Using scented soaps, vaginal deodorants, or perfumed bubble baths

g.       Engaging in sexual intimacy with more than one partner

You cannot catch BV from:

1.       Touching objects

2.       Toilet seats

3.       Swimming pools

4.       Bedding

Possible Complications

Complications that have been linked to bacterial vaginosis include:

1.       HIV infection, as you will become more susceptible to this virus

2.       Post-surgical infection, e.g., after a hysterectomy or after an abortion

3.       STIs, e.g., human papilloma virus, herpes simplex virus, gonorrhea, and chlamydia

Possible pregnancy related complications

1.       Preterm delivery—giving birth too early

2.       Inflammation of the membranes surrounding your fetus

3.       Late miscarriages

4.       Tubal factor infertility

5.       Your amniotic sac breaking open prematurely

Bacterial vaginosis discharge vs. yeast infection discharge

Apart from the different microorganisms that are responsible for causing vaginitis (yeast vs. bacteria), yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis may be distinguished from the smell of your vaginal discharge.

A yeast infection discharge has no odor. But, the consistency, is often described as being very close to that of cottage cheese.

Yeast infection discharge
Yeast infection discharge

On the other hand, the bacterial vaginosis discharge tends to be grayish or whitish in color. It also comes with a very thin viscosity.

It is easy to notice the smell immediately as it is strong, and fishy in nature. Being able to distinguish the difference in the two discharges makes it easy to describe the symptoms to your physician.

The physician will then be able to come up with the right treatment for you based on the description that you have provided.

A bacterial vaginosis discharge may be yellow
BV discharge

In summary, here are the differences in BV discharge compared to a yeast infection discharge.

Yeast dischargeBV discharge
Yeast discharge has no odorBV discharge has a fishy smelling odor (foul odor)
Thick, clumpy yellow discharge.Thin, watery discharge, a little heavier than usual, grayish white or yellow.

Differences in treatments

How is BV treated compared to vaginal yeast infections? Since they are caused by different organisms, their treatments differ even though some of their symptoms may appear a little similar.

Yeast infection treatment

A vaginal yeast infection is treated through the use of antifungal drugs. Over the counter (OTC) and prescription medications are available, and which are quite effective in treating the infections.

Nonprescription drugs are considered to be the best home remedies for use when dealing with a yeast case. They are preferred as they are known to cure different types of fungal infections.

But, homeopathic methods have not been properly studied for them to be recommended for use in treating vaginal yeast.

Anti-itch medications on the other hand only treat the itching symptoms, leaving out the underlying cause, which is the yeast infection.

Bacterial vaginosis treatment

Antibiotic medication is recommended for treating bacterial vaginosis cases. The medication has been seen to be effective in treating ninety percent of all BV related cases. However, the infection tends to come back after a few weeks.

Even though BV has been known to clear on its own without any treatment being necessary, any woman exhibiting signs and symptoms of this condition is advised to seek recommendation as soon as possible to avoid complications.

In many instances, the male partners will not require treatment, but they could end up spreading the bacterial infection to other women, more so if they happen to have multiple sex partners.

There are doctors who recommend that women undergoing an abortion or hysterectomy get treated for bacterial vaginosis before the procedure can be performed, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.

Metronidazole is the antibiotic that is most recommended for treating bacterial vaginosis cases. Even though oral antibiotics are effective in treating BV, the medication is also available in the form of a gel.

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