Thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) are common infections in women, however they can often be confused. Because they require different treatments, it’s important to know which is which. In our article below, we’ll look at the common symptoms of thrush and BV so you can tell them apart. We’ll also look at the causes and treatments for both.
Thrush is a common infection caused by and imbalance of natural yeast found in the body. Although thrush is most commonly associated with the vagina, it can affect all areas of the body. Check out our article on the 5 Different Types of Thrush for more information on this.
When you have vaginal thrush, the most common symptoms you may experience are:
- A white, cottage cheese-like discharge (this usually won’t smell)
- Itching around the vulva and vagina
- Red and swollen labia
- Soreness around the entrance of your vagina
- Pain or irritation during sex or when using the toilet
However, some people with thrush experience no symptoms and may not know they have it.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Similarly to thrush, BV is caused by an imbalance in the body. However, where thrush is yeast, BV is caused by an imbalance of bacteria.
When you have BV, the most common symptoms you may experience are:
- Greyish-white discharge
- Watery discharge
- A fishy or unpleasant odour coming from your vagina
- Symptoms getting worse when you have sex or during your period
If you’re still not sure, ask yourself these questions:
Are you feeling sore or itchy, or experiencing a burning sensation? If the answer is yes, you probably have thrush. BV doesn’t typically cause pain or irritation.
Is your discharge white and looks a bit like cottage cheese? If the answer is no, you most likely have BV. Discharge when you have BV should be greyish or watery.
Is there a strong fishy smell? If the answer is yes, you may have BV. Thrush rarely causes a smell.
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If you suspect you have either thrush or BV, you should speak to your GP for a proper diagnosis.
There are a few options for thrush treatment, some of which can be used at the same time. This way you can fight the infection and manage symptoms. You can choose between an oral tablet, a pessary (a tablet you insert into the vagina), or internal and external creams.
Oral tablets normally contain the active ingredient fluconazole. This is an antifungal that works to clear the infection from the inside out.
Pessaries and internal and external creams typically contain clotrimazole, another antifungal which can ease symptoms as well as helping to cure the infection.
Because BV is a bacterial infection, it needs to be treated with antibiotics. This means you need to see your doctor to get a prescription. Metronidazole is a common antibiotic used to treat BV, and it will usually clear up the infection in 7 days.
There are also internal gels and pessaries available. These use lactic acid to restore the normal pH balance inside the vagina to relieve symptoms.
Recurrent Thrush or BV
Even after treatment, thrush and BV can come back. If you’re frequently having either infection, your doctor may suggest some tests to see what the cause is. Sometime frequent infections can be symptoms of another issue. Your doctor may also prescribe a longer cause of treatment.