Many women develop some form of vaginal infections at one time or the other. Two of the most common infections are bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection. However both infections can sometimes be hard to differentiate from one another as they can share similar symptoms. To better understand the differences between the two infections, let’s start by understanding bacterial vaginosis and then followed by yeast infection.
What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis (pronounced: back-tear-ee-ahl vag- eh-noe-sis) is a condition that is often associated with a fishy smelling vaginal odor. Some doctors referred to this type of vaginal infection as Gardnerella vaginitis, as it was named after the bacteria that is suspect to cause the condition. Medical research has discovered that there are many species of bacteria that live in the vaginal canal. When there are an overgrowth of the bacteria such as Gardnerella vaginalis, an infection occurs.
Contrary to what one may have heard, bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted disease. However, sexual activity does tend to make it worse and the smell can be strong after intercourse. The good news is that bacterial vaginosis is not a dangerous health condition; it’s simply a nuisance that can produce some embarrassing symptoms such as a milky discharge with an unpleasant, fishy smell, as well as irritation and intense itching.
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
It is widely believed that bacterial vaginosis is a result of an imbalance between the good bacteria such as Lactobacilli that protects the vagina flora when there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria like Gardnerella vaginalis.
Some of the possible causes for bacterial vaginosis to develop can be due to excessive douching, the application of scented feminine wash or use of intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control. It is also important to note that bacterial vaginosis is more common among women who are sexually active, as unprotected sex can increase the chances of bacteria been introduced into the vagina flora.
Signs And Symptoms Of Bacterial Vaginosis
The symptoms may vary from women to women. For a small percentage of women, there are no symptoms other than the fishy odor. Other possible symptoms include:
- Grayish white vaginal discharge
- Vaginal irritation
- Pelvic pain
- Burning with urination
- Pain during sex
How Is Bacterial Vaginosis Diagnosed?
To diagnose bacterial vaginosis, your doctor will perform a pelvic examination to rule out other, serious vaginal infections. A sample of your discharge will be obtained to examine under the microscope. Bacterial vaginosis is distinguished from a yeast infection this way. With bacterial vaginosis, the doctor sees “clue cells”, large epithelial cells that are irritated from the bacterial imbalance. Should you have a yeast infection, the doctor can see “budding yeast”, a very different appearing substance. It is not uncommon for women to have both types of conditions at the same time. A good gynecologist can diagnose these conditions easily.
What Are The Treatments For Bacterial Vaginosis?
The most common medication prescribed to treat bacterial vaginosis is antibiotics. There are two that are commonly used, clindamycin (Cleocin) and metrodiazole (Flagyl). These medications are available in pill form or a solution that one can insert up into the vagina. Your gynecologist will decide which one is best for you. For most women, one course of antibiotics will stop the symptoms, but for others a second course of antibiotics may be necessary if the condition has already developed for a period of time. Because antibiotics are known to cause yeast infections, many women turn to natural or herbal treatment methods to avoid trading one problem for another.
Try Femanol, a popular herbal supplement that is made with antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral herbs and vitamins (such as deodorized garlic, Beta glucans, neem bark extract, vitamin B, biotin, zinc, selenium and lactobacillus acidophilus) to help eliminate bacterial vaginosis permanently from the inside out.
What Is A Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is also known as candidiasis (pronounced: can-dih-dee-ay-sis). This infection is appropriately named as it is caused by yeast (fungus) called Candida albicans. Many doctors call this form of infection vulvovaginal candidiasis. These types of infection occur on moist, warm areas of the body, such as the mouth, under the breast, and of course, the vagina. A yeast infection of the vagina causes irritation to the lining of the vagina and results in a thick, curd like vaginal discharge. The symptoms for this form of vaginitis can be severe or minimal, depending on the woman.
What Causes Yeast Infection In Women?
Candida can overgrow in the vagina for many reasons resulting in a yeast infection. Pregnancy, stress, and illnesses that alter the immune system may afford yeast the opportunity to multiply. Some medications, like birth control pills, antibiotics, and steroids, also increase the number of yeast in the vagina. Hormonal changes in the body can lead to a yeast infection as well. Another reason that some women get frequent yeast infections is their clothing choice. Clothing (especially underwear) that is too tight or that is made of nylon material traps moisture and heat. This moist hot environment allows for the overgrowth of yeast and provides an optimum environment for the candida species to flourish.
Signs and Symptoms Of Yeast Infection
Much like bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection has many symptoms and some women may have all of them, while others do not. This form of vaginitis varies from person to person. The signs and symptoms of a yeast infection include:
- Discharge that looks like cottage cheese
- Vaginal redness
- Vaginal itching as well as pain
- Burning with urination
- Pain during sex
How Is A Yeast Infection Diagnosed?
Many women “self-diagnose” a yeast infection. Others chose to see their gynecologist to be certain of the diagnosis. The doctor will perform a pelvic examination and examine your vaginal secretions under the microscope. The identification of budding yeast allows for an easy diagnosis. During the pelvic exam, the doctor can also rule out other serious vaginal infections that can mimic a yeast infection.
What Are The Treatments For A Yeast Infection?
There are many over-the-counter products available that treat a yeast infection. These include miconazole (Monistat) and clotrimazole (GyneLotrimin). An effective treatment you can receive from your gynecologist is Diflucan, a pill that provides fast and effective relief. This medication is available in a convenient pill form and most women only require a single dose. There are other intravaginal creams and suppositories that your doctor can prescribe if Diflucan is not the best choice for your condition.
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