Yeast infections and BV (bacterial vaginosis) are the top two most common vaginal infections in the US. Together, they affect over 30 million American women yearly! While these yeast infections and BV are extremely common, and their symptoms can look similar, their treatments are very different and what works to treat BV won’t work yeast infections, and vice versa. The key is to be able to identify the cause of your symptoms quickly so you can get the right care and feel better fast.
What causes BV?
Bacterial vaginosis refers to a vaginal infection that occurs when you have an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria. You may not know it, but your vagina hosts a world of microorganisms that help keep it healthy, called a microbiome. A healthy vaginal microbiome has a balance of both good and bad bacteria, with the good bacteria helping to limit the growth of bad bacteria. A BV infection occurs when something interferes with the good bacteria and allows the bad bacteria to multiply. Foreign semen or saliva from oral or penile sex can lead to a bacterial imbalance in your vagina, as can douching or the introduction of a new soap or laundry detergent. Though it's possible you won't experience any of these (fingers crossed), here are some common symptoms that can indicate you have BV:
- Unpleasant, fishy odor
- Vaginal itching or pain
- Burning during urination
- Thin, gray, white, or green vaginal discharge
It's possible that you may have symptoms that come and go, or you may not notice them at all if they're mild. Either way, it's important to consult with a physician or take Wisp's Symptoms Quiz if you suspect you have BV.
What causes Yeast Infections?
Similar to BV, a yeast infection is the result of an overgrowth of a microorganism. In this case, it is a type of fungus called candida albicans, or Candida, rather than a type of bacteria. Candida overgrowth can be easily triggered by changes in your vaginal pH that can be caused by hormonal changes, increased moisture (like trapped sweat and heat), irritation from clothing, or even commonly prescribed oral medication, like antibiotics. The overgrowth of yeast can lead to itching, irritation, and discharge. Some common yeast infection symptoms that may signal you've got a little too much fungus down there include:
- Redness and swelling
- Pain and soreness
- White or yellow cottage cheese-like discharge
How do I know if it's BV or yeast?
As you can see from the symptoms listed above, BV and yeast infections have quite a few symptoms in common. It's very easy to get the two mixed up! However, the treatment for yeast infections and the treatment for BV are very different—yeast infections require antifungal medication while BV requires antibiotics (they aren't interchangeable—if you get the wrong treatment, it won't work against your infection). There are a couple of key differences in symptoms that can help you identify whether you're dealing with BV or a yeast infection:
- Odor — BV infections typically have a tell-tale fishy smell that will be very strong—there's no mistaking it. Yeast infections tend to be odorless, or you may pick up a very mild yeasty odor that may remind you of bread.
- Discharge — BV discharge is thin and will be a grey or greenish color. Discharge from a yeast infection will be thick, white, and chunky. It's often described as having a cottage cheese-like texture.
Additionally, you're more likely to experience itching with a yeast infection. BV can also cause itching, but it will probably be more severe and apparent with a yeast infection. If you still aren't sure which type of infection, document your symptoms thoroughly and let your doctor know. They will be able to give you the right diagnosis and corresponding treatment to get you back on track!
How do I treat vaginal infections from home?
Once you're sure about your diagnosis, a doctor can provide the appropriate treatment. You can always connect with a Wisp provider to order BV antibiotics or Yeast Infection Antifungals—have them sent to your local pharmacy and pick them up the same day for fast relief! If you know you’re prone to yeast infections as a result of antibiotics, let your provider know and they can prescribe you a dose of fluconazole (Diflucan) just in case you get one. Prescription meds are the most reliable ways to treat these infections and to keep them from returning. If you find yourself dealing with chronic or recurrent symptoms, you can also add natural preventatives like Boric Acid into your routine. These suppositories work at the site of infection to help your vagina maintain a healthy balance and keep infections at bay.
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