Back to Top

What is the difference between a yeast infection and BV?

The vagina is populated by certain organisms we call “normal flora”. This normal flora consists of yeasts and a number of different types of bacteria that are always present and normally in balance.

One type of vaginal bacteria consists of Lactobacillus species that do not cause symptoms and are considered the “good bacteria”. We want plenty of these in the healthy vagina. These are the bacteria that are present in yogurt that we call “probiotic bacteria”. They are available in various probiotic supplements.

There are also other types of bacteria that may cause various symptoms such as burning, irritation, discharge or odor. These can be either bacteria that come from the nearby colon or be bacteria that are normally found in the vagina (the types that can cause “BV” or Bacterial Vaginosis). If the conditions change in the vagina that favor an overgrowth of the BV bacteria, then you can get “Bacterial Vaginosis.” The BV bacteria often cause symptoms of burning, irritation and a fishy smelling discharge. The diagnosis can be confirmed in the office and you can take oral or vaginal antibiotics to get things back to normal.

There are also yeasts (a type of fungus) in the vagina normally. If the conditions in the vagina get out of balance and the yeasts grow too much then you can get a “yeast infection”. The symptoms of a yeast infection are a thick white discharge, itching and irritation. The diagnosis can be confirmed in the office and you can take either oral or vaginal antifungal medication to get things back to normal.

Often the symptoms of BV and yeast infections are hard to tell apart which is why we ask our patients to come to the office to get a correct diagnosis and correct treatment. Usually patients with these vaginitis symptoms can be seen the same day if they call the office early enough.