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Do I Have BV or Yeast Infection? - How to Tell Them Apart

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 01, 2021

Do I Have BV or Yeast Infection? - How to Tell Them Apart

It’s easy to confuse bacterial vaginosis (BV) with a yeast infection. When you find yourself asking, “do I have BV or yeast infection?,’ keep the following information in mind.

Vaginal Yeast Infection: All You Need To Know

BV and vaginal yeast infection are common forms of vaginitis

It’s natural to confuse these two conditions because they are both types of vaginitis or vulvovaginitis, a common condition among women of reproductive years.

Vaginitis happens when the outer part of the female genital area becomes infected and inflamed—generally, women with vaginitis experience vaginal itching, pain, and abnormal discharge and odor.

But, despite the similarities in symptoms, bacterial vaginosis and vaginal yeast infection have distinguishing characteristics. Women must learn about these distinctive characteristics because the conditions have a different treatment course.

do I have BV or yeast infection

Treatment for BV and vaginal yeast infection

To further appreciate how important it is to differentiate yeast infection from bacterial vaginosis, let’s talk about their treatment.

A vaginal yeast infection happens when there’s an overgrowth of Candida, a type of fungi, in the vagina. For this reason, the doctor will give you an over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal cream to clear your symptoms within a few days.

On the other hand, BV infection occurs when there’s an imbalance in the vagina’s bacterial environment. Since the cause is bacteria, the doctor will give you prescription antibiotic medicine.

Since the two conditions are treated differently, a woman should never self-medicate. In some cases, women who purchase and use OTC antifungals for their vaginitis symptoms get frustrated because their symptoms are not improving.

When they finally consult their doctor, they find out that their condition is actually bacterial vaginosis.

How to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis Naturally

BV or vaginal yeast infection: How to tell them apart

At one glance, their symptoms may be similar, but there are still observable differences.

If it’s bacterial vaginosis:

If you have bacterial vaginosis, you’ll probably have:

  • Thin vaginal discharge which is more noticeable after sex. The color may vary; it can either be gray or white, and may be profuse. As for consistency, it can be either watery or foamy.
  • Strong “fishy’ vaginal odor
  • Burning sensation especially during urination
  • Vaginal itching
  • No redness or swelling in the genital area

If it’s vaginal yeast infection:

In contrast, vaginal yeast infection often leads to the following symptoms:

  • Thick, white discharge. Most women describe it has “cottage cheese’ consistency.
  • No vaginal odor
  • Pain during sexual intercourse or urination
  • Vaginal itching
  • Soreness, redness, and swelling in the genital area

The next steps 

Let’s say you’ve looked into your symptoms closely and identified your condition; what’s next? The next step is to see your doctor still.

If it’s bacterial vaginosis, you’ll need antibiotics, and only a doctor can give you a prescription for it. Never take any antibiotic without a doctor’s approval.

In case you believe that your condition is a vaginal yeast infection, you may be tempted to self-medicate; after all, OTC antifungal creams are available in pharmacies. However, it’s still not a good idea. Below are the reasons why:

  • Studies show that 2/3 of women who buy antifungals don’t actually have a yeast infection. Researchers found out that their condition is either BV or one type of sexually-transmitted disease. To be sure about your condition, seek your doctor’s help.
  • You may become resistant to yeast infection medicines. Using antifungals when you don’t have a yeast infection can make it harder to treat future yeast infections.
  • Some antifungal medications can weaken your birth control method. This may increase your chances of getting pregnant or put you in danger of contracting STIs.

The bottom line is, even if you can tell BV from a yeast infection, you still need to consult your doctor.

Key Takeaways

Bacterial vaginosis and vaginal yeast infection are common types of vaginitis. To tell them apart, you can observe your symptoms closely. BV typically has a thin discharge with a strong fishy odor. On the other hand, yeast infection causes thick, “cottage cheese’ discharge with no odor.

Learn more about Bacterial Vaginosis here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 01, 2021

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