Bacterial Vaginosis FAQ

by eMedExpert staff
Medical references reviewed: August, 2018

Bacterial Vaginosis vs Yeast Infection

What is the difference between Yeast Infection (thrush) and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

First of all these conditions have different causes and require different treatment.

Causes

  • BV is caused by overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria.
  • Yeast infection is caused by overgrowth of fungus called candida.

Discharge

Both bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection are characterised by an abnormal vaginal discharge, but the appearance of the discharge is rather different.

  • BV typically causes thin gray or yellow discharge with a specific fishy odor.
  • Yeast infection causes odor-free, thick white discharge similar to cottage cheese.

Itching, irritation

  • BV is not usually associated with discomfort, soreness, itching, or irritation.
  • Most yeast infections are accompanied by intense itching and irritation.

Vaginal pH

  • In BV vaginal environment becomes more alkaline.
  • Thrush doesn't have an effect on the acidity of the vaginal environment.

What is common in Yeast Infection and Bacterial Vaginosis?

What is common for yeast infection and BV is that both are non-STD conditions that can be transmitted during sexual activity. Neither condition causes sores.

How to cure

Bacterial Vaginosis vs Chlamydia

Chlaymdia is a sexually transmitted disease that affect both women and men.

Transmission

  • Chlaymdia is a sexually transmitted disease that affects both women and men. Chlamydia is transmitted via oral, anal, or vaginal sex with a person who already has the disease.
  • Bacterial vaginosis is not a classic sexually transmitted infection, but is strongly correlated to sexual activity. This infection has a negative impact only on women's health.

Symptoms

Both conditions are often asymptomatic (experience no symptoms), and are not normally accompanied by any vaginal soreness or itching. Unlike Chlamydia infection, BV is accompanied by a distinct fishy smell.

Health consequences

BV affects only women's vagina and female reproductive system.

Chlamydia can infect the eyes and throat in addition to the vagina, cervix, penis, anus. Untreated chlamydia can progress to serious health problems.

History of previous BV is associated with an increased risk of subsequent chlamydia infection4.

Treatment

BV and Chlamydia require treatment with different antibiotics.

Is Bacterial Vaginosis a STD?

There is a lot of confusion about BV transmission. Is it really a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?

Currently BV is not considered a sexually transmitted infection in the traditional sense. In fact, men don’t suffer from bacterial vaginosis.

However, this disease can be acquired through sexual activity, and BV-associated bacteria can be found in the male genitalia.

Several recent studies support the concept of bacterial vaginosis as a sexually transmitted infection1. It's a proven fact, that sexual transmission of bacterial vaginosis is frequent between lesbians and bisexual women2.

Risk factors associated with BV3 include some common to other STIs, such as gonorrhoea and Chlamydia trachomatis:

  • Having more than one sexual partner. The more sexual partners someone has over their lifetime, the greater their risk for BV - a pattern consistent with STDs.
  • Past history of STDs
  • Living in a deprived area

However, BV has more contrasting age profile than traditional STD, and is most prevalent among women over the age of 30. BV was also more common in divorced women.

And what is especially important, BV makes a person more vulnerable to STDs.

Resume: Although bacterial vaginosis is not considered a true sexually transmitted infection, it is strongly correlated to sexual activity.

BV transmission

Bacterial vaginosis is a disruption in the balance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria. The condition develops as a result of overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria and replacement of the normal vaginal lactobacillus flora.

The normal lactobacillus flora may be destroyed by prolonged alteration in the vaginal pH following frequent sexual intercourse. Instillation of large numbers of organisms from a male or female sex partner might trigger BV.

Male sex partners of women with BV generally do not suffer from BV symptoms and in most cases do not need the treatment.

BV may happen in women who aren't sexually active.

References

  • 1. Hay P. Bacterial vaginosis. F1000 Res. 2017 Sep 27;6:1761
  • 2. Berger BJ, Kolton S, Zenilman JM, Cummings MC, Feldman J, Mc Cormack WM. Bacterialvaginosis in lesbians: a sexually transmitted disease. Clin Infect Dis. 1995 Dec;21(6):1402-5
  • 3. Morris MC, Rogers PA, Kinghorn GR. Is bacterial vaginosis a sexually transmitted infection? SexTransm Infect. 2001 Feb;77(1):63-8.
  • 4. Bautista CT, Wurapa EK, Sateren WB, Morris SM, Hollingsworth BP, Sanchez JL. Association of Bacterial Vaginosis With Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Among Women in the U.S. Army.Am J Prev Med. 2017 May;52(5):632-639

Published: May 18, 2018
Last updated: May 18, 2018

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