Bacterial Vaginosis and Vaginal Thrush are two of the most common vaginal infections in women. Most women will develop both of these infections at one time in their lives. Because of their common symptomsâ€”which include discharge and itchinessâ€”as well as their prevalence, one can often be mistaken for the other, leading to a misdiagnosis and therefore, ineffective treatment. Bacterial Vaginosis is twice as common as Vaginal Thrush and because of this, it is more often misdiagnosed. It is important to learn the difference between the two and to get tested by a physician if you think you have either of these infections because leaving BV untreatedâ€”or treating it incorrectly due to thinking it is thrushâ€”can lead to future health problems.
Bacterial Vaginosis, or BV, is a common vaginal infection in women between the ages of 12 and 45. It is characterized by a thick white or gray discharge, often accompanied by an unpleasant, fishy odor. Severe cases of BV can also cause pain during sex and even light bleeding from the vagina. Bacterial Vaginosis is a result of a pH imbalance within the vagina, usually low acid levels. Though the exact cause for this imbalance is not known, many doctors believe that changes in lifestyle such as increased sexual activity, wearing thongs or g-strings which can create friction on the vagina, or increased heat due to weather or clothing choices can be a factor. Changes in hormones, due to oneâ€™s menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause, can also increase the risk of BV. Luckily, BV is easily treated with over-the-counter topical gelsâ€”available at most pharmacies and drug storesâ€”or a prescription antibiotic if needed. If untreated, BV can increase the risk of contracting some sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. Untreated BV can also lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which can cause sterility.
Candidal vulvovaginitis, or Vaginal Thrush, is a common fungal infection caused by yeast. In womenâ€™s health, it is commonly referred to as a yeast infection. Most women will develop a yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. When a patient has Vaginal Thrush, her vaginal membranes become infected with a fungus which is naturally present in the vagina. The problem arises when this fungi begins growing at a rapid rate and causes symptoms such as discharge, pain during urination, and itchiness in the pubic area, which can sometimes be quite severe. Unlike BV, the discharge from a yeast infection is usually odorless. The colour and consistency of the vaginal discharge also differs from BV. Yeast infections often causes yellowish, clumpy discharge, while the discharge present due to Bacterial Vaginosis is usually gray or white and smooth in texture, though it can be quite thick. Many elements can trigger a yeast infection, which is caused by a hormonal imbalance. One of the leading causes of yeast infections is antibiotics, which kill naturally occurring bacteria within the vagina and allow the fungi to produce at a more rapid rate than usual. Yeast infections can also be the cause of increased sexual activity and hormonal changes due to pregnancy and menopause.
Many women misdiagnose themselves when experiencing symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis. Because the symptoms of BV are so similar to those of a yeast infection, some women look these symptoms up on the internet and believe that they have a yeast infection. Other women have had a yeast infection before and mistakenly believe that their BV is another bout of thrush. Gynecologists can swap the inside of the vagina and test for the presence of either infection, so itâ€™s important for women to get tested and know what treatment is appropriate before they try to diagnose themselves.