Up to three quarters of all women suffer from a vaginal inflammatory condition during their lifetime. Vaginitis is the medical term used to refer to the inflammation that occurs in the vaginal area. It is very common and is caused by many factors. The two most common causes are bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection. This article explains the differences between a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis.
A yeast infection is a fungal infection that mostly affects moist parts of the body such as the mouth, skin folds, private parts, and beneath fingernails. It is caused by naturally occurring yeast called Candida. This happens when the fungi grow in excess, changing the natural balance between the growth of bacteria that act as controls, and fungi in the body.
Bacterial vaginosis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory condition that is caused by overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in the vaginal area.
|Yeast infection||Bacterial Vaginosis|
|Caused by fungi, i.e. yeast||Caused by bacteria|
|No odor||Unpleasant odor|
|Thick, cottage-cheese-like discharge||Thin, milky white discharge|
|May be treated by non-prescription medication||Treated by prescribed antibiotics|
The difference between them is in what causes them, their symptoms, and treatment.
A yeast infection is a type of fungal infection. It commonly refers to only one type of fungal infection – Candida albicans, although it can be caused by other types of yeasts. It is the second most prevalent condition that affects womens’ private parts, after bacterial infections. It can be bothersome but is not serious, and treatment is usually the administration of antifungal drugs. A bacterial infection, however, can be serious. It may lead to increased risk of infection in women who develop complications when pregnant or when undergoing gynecological surgery. For instance, a woman with bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy is forty percent more likely to have a baby who is underweight.
A common yeast infection in women usually occurs in the vagina as a result of the imbalance between bacteria and yeast. When healthy, a vagina has many bacteria and yeast cells. The bacteria help keep the yeast and other organisms under control. When something happens, such as the introduction of antibiotics, an imbalance occurs. A reduced level of bacteria gives the yeast room to grow in excess, causing an infection. Symptoms include itching, and/or a burning sensation when urinating. A bacterial infection is also caused by the same imbalance in the affected area. By nature, a woman’s vagina has a balance of microorganisms in which there are a significant number of protective bacteria such as lactobacilli. When protective bacteria are wiped out, harmful bacteria may develop quickly, causing bacterial vaginosis.
It is common to confuse the symptoms of a yeast infection with that of a bacterial infection. A yeast infection is mainly characterized by itching and irritation, something that does not appear if a patient has bacterial vaginosis. In addition, someone with a yeast infection will have a thick, white and odorless discharge, while one with bacterial infection will have a thin, gray and unpleasant smelling discharge.
For more information, here is a lecture about the various types of infections caused by fungi: