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Difference Between Bacterial Vaginosis vs. Yeast Infection

Difference Between Bacterial Vaginosis vs. Yeast Infection

Vaginal infections are common concerns that can disrupt your daily life. The two most prevalent types are bacterial vaginosis (BV) and vulvovaginal candidiasis (yeast infections). There is considerable confusion around distinguishing bacterial vaginosis vs. yeast infections based on symptoms. But recognizing key differences in causes, testing, and ideal treatment can help identify the type of vaginal infection to address it properly.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina. [1] Specifically, Gardnerella vaginalis and other anaerobic bacteria multiply leading to alteration of normal vaginal pH and a reduction of protective lactobacilli.


Risk factors for BV include new or multiple sex partners, douching, and using scented irritating products. Essentially anything that disturbs the balance of the vaginal microbiome can permit Gardnerella dominance.


The common symptoms of BV include:

  • Thin gray, white or green vaginal discharge
  • Fishy vaginal odor, especially during or after intercourse
  • Vulva or vaginal itching or burning sensation

What is a Yeast Infection?

A yeast infection results from overgrowth of a fungus in the vagina, usually Candida albicans. [2] Yeast naturally exists in the vagina in small quantities but expansions disrupt typical flora.


Factors permitting candida fungal overgrowth as a vaginal yeast infection include hormonal changes from periods, pregnancy or estrogen therapy as well as antibiotic use, diabetes and compromised immunity.


Common yeast infection symptoms include:

  • Thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge
  • Intense vulvovaginal itching and burning
  • Swelling and redness around the vulva
  • Painful sexual intercourse

What's the Difference Between BV and Yeast Infection?

While both involve microbial imbalances, a BV infection stems from overexpression of anaerobic bacteria like G. vaginalis while yeast infections result from fungal overgrowth of Candida fungi, frequently C. albicans.

There can be some overlap like burning and discharge but generally:

  • BV yields gray/white discharge with fishy odor most noticeable after intercourse.
  • Yeast drives thick, white, cottage cheese clumps and intense itchiness of the vaginal area.


BV is diagnosed through pH testing and microscopic examination showing reduced lactobacilli and increased Gardnerella.

Yeast identification requires microscopy looking for fungal hyphae forms or culturing to confirm Candida overgrowth.


BV requires antibiotic gels or oral pills to reduce causative bacteria. Yeast is treated with various anti-fungal ointments or suppositories.


BV tends to recur more often than vaginal yeast infections especially if main risk factors persist. Both benefit from probiotic supplements to rebalance the vaginal microbiome after prescription treatments.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Vaginal Issues


Clinical diagnosis typically requires an examination of vaginal discharge noting consistency, color, smell, and pH. There are different tests like a saline microscopy that shows epithelial cells and whether increased white blood cells indicate infection. Cultures may further identify causative organisms. You can also use a home test kit that measures vaginal pH and assess discharge symptoms as a first step before seeing a doctor.

Prescription Treatments

BV requires antibiotic gels like metronidazole or clindamycin creams. Oral pills may be prescribed for recurrent BV.

Yeast infections are treated with various antifungal medications including butoconazole, miconazole and tioconazole vaginal ointments or suppositories. Oral fluconazole is another option.

Home Remedies

Natural remedies, like taking vaginal probiotics, can help support your vaginal and gut microbiome as well. If you’re wondering, “Are probiotics good for vaginal health,” you’ll be pleased to hear about our newly released Vaginal Health Probiotic supplement. It contains a potent blend of 4 probiotic strains and 15 million CFUs to support the natural balance of vaginal flora and promote a healthy environment by replenishing beneficial bacteria. Ideal for daily use, it can help reduce discomfort, odors, and infections, thereby enhancing overall vaginal health.

See Your Healthcare Provider

If symptoms persist after using OTC products or you experience recurrent infections, see your doctor. They can perform proper diagnostic testing and provide appropriate prescription interventions based on identified pathogens. Partner treatment may be recommended especially for recurrent BV.

Learn how to improve vaginal health by getting the right diagnosis and targeted treatment. Being able to distinguish key nuances between bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection sets you on the path to effective resolution and sustained wellness. Rael offers total support like menstrual supplements and vulva care products to address all of your menstrual cycle symptoms, providing you with dependable relief and support throughout all four phases.


[1] Cleveland Clinic. Bacterial Vaginosis. N.d. Accessed on 2024 Feb 26.

[2] Mayo Clinic. Yeast infection (vaginal). 11 Jan, 2023.  Accessed on 2024 Feb 26.

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