What is a yeast infection? What is bacterial vaginosis?
A yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis both cause vaginal discharge.
A yeast infection is an infection with any type of yeast. In women, vaginal yeast infections are common. This article will focus on the similarities and differences between vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV), another condition of the vagina that causes vaginal discharge.
What the causes and risk factors of a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis?
A vaginal yeast infection usually occurs when the normal balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina is altered, allowing excessive growth of the yeast. The yeast known as Candida is the main cause of vaginal yeast infections. Vaginal Candidiasis is another name for this infection. Suppression of immune function can increase the likelihood of developing yeast infections. Similarly, an abnormal overgrowth or imbalance of the bacteria that are normally present in the vagina cause bacterial vaginosis. BV is not a true infection but rather a disruption in the balance of normal bacteria. BV was formerly referred to as Gardnerella vaginitis, because people believed that Gardnerella bacteria were responsible for the condition.
Risk factors for both BV and yeast infection can include recent antibiotic use. Other risk factors for a yeast infection include
- high estrogen levels,
- uncontrolled diabetes, and
- suppression of the immune system.
A number of factors can increase a woman’s risk of BV, including
- multiple or new sex partners,
- IUD use,
- vaginal douching, and
- cigarette smoking.
What are the signs and symptoms of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis?
BV often does not cause specific symptoms. When it does cause symptoms, both BV and yeast infections cause vaginal discharge. With a yeast infection, the discharge is white-gray, thick, and often having the consistency of cottage cheese. Other symptoms of yeast infections include
- intense itching,
- vaginal burning or irritation,
- painful intercourse, and
- pain or burning during urination.
The discharge typically seen with BV is thinner and grayish-white in color. BV also can cause vaginal odor and sometimes pain or irritation.
Yeast Infection Treatment
Topical antibiotic (antifungal) treatments (applied directly to the affected area) are available without a prescription. These include vaginal creams, tablets, or suppositories. Regimens vary according to the length of treatment and are typically 1- or 3-day regimens. Recurrent infections may require even longer courses of topical treatment. These topical treatments relieve symptoms and eradicate evidence of the infection in up to 90% of those who complete treatment.
What exams do doctors use to diagnose a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis?
Doctors diagnose both yeast infection and BV by examination of a sample of the vaginal discharge in the laboratory. There is also a whiff test for BV that involves testing the vaginal discharge with a chemical that produces a characteristic odor when BV is present.
What are treatments and home remedies for yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis?
There are no home remedies that can cure either a yeast infection or BV. Prescription and over-the-counter antifungals (for example, miconazole and fluconazole) are the most common treatments of yeast infections. Antibiotics (for example, metronidazole and clindamycin) are the treatment of choice for bacterial vaginosis conditions.
What the prognosis of a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis?
Symptoms of both a BV and yeast infection typically resolve once appropriate treatment starts. In both cases, recurrence of the yeast infection or repeat bouts of BV are common. However, they typically do not produce long-term complications.
Is it possible to prevent yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis?
Careful attention to hygiene may help prevent some yeast infections, as well as changing out of wet bathing suits or damp clothes as soon as possible. Loose-fitting cotton underwear decreases moisture in the genital area and may help prevent yeast infections. Avoidance of vaginal douching can also help prevent both conditions. Reducing certain risk factors, such as limiting the number of sex partners and taking all medications as directed when being treated for bacterial vaginosis, can also help reduce a woman’s risk of developing bacterial vaginosis. However, it is not possible to completely prevent either condition.
Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Bacterial vaginosis.” .
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Candidiasis.”