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What’s the Difference Between Thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis?

In a perfect world, your daily commute wouldn’t cost a cent. Your Monday morning skim latte would be free. And if we’re here to talk about a dream, parallel universe, often-uncomfortable-to-talk-about conditions like thrush and bacterial vaginosis (BV) simply wouldn’t exist.

Well, back here in the real world, the fact of the matter is, they do. Interestingly, though, the problem doesn’t necessarily lie in the fact that thrush and BV merely exist; each condition is easily diagnosable and treatable. It’s more that women often confuse these two common vaginal infections, which can lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment.

Don’t believe us? As many as 29 percents of American women suffer from BV, with many unaware of its existence at all.

With the help of Dr. Fiona Cleary, we look into what the varied signs and symptoms of thrush and BV are, as well as how to treat each of these conditions correctly.

What’s the difference between thrush and BV?

“Thrush is a fungal overgrowth causing a variety of symptoms, including thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge, which doesn’t smell,” Dr. Cleary explains. “It can cause itchiness and discomfort and possibly a red rash.”

On the other hand, Dr. Cleary informs us that BV has a thin, white/grey discharge and causes a fishy smell. “It can cause some mild vaginal discomfort,” Dr. Cleary continues, adding that BV can also be completely asymptomatic meaning that, sometimes, people with BV may not show any symptoms at all.

The one thing each infection has on common? “Both thrush and BV can be passed on through sexual activity, however, are not considered STIs because you can get them without having sex,” says Dr. Cleary.

Symptoms of thrush.

According to Better Health Victoria, signs of thrush could look like:

  • Itching or burning; general vaginal discomfort
  • A thick, white discharge with a ‘cottage cheese’ appearance and yeasty smell
  • Redness or swelling of the vagina or vulva
  • Stinging or burning while urinating or during sex
  • Splits in the genital skin

Symptoms of BV

Along with this list of BV symptoms, Better Health Victoria also states that BV can occur at the same time as other sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Here are the signs of BV to look out for:

  • Watery, white, or grey discharge from the vagina
  • The strong or unusual odor from the vagina often described as a ‘fishy smell’

How can the infection be treated?

The key to keeping on top of your sexual health is to be aware of what’s going on down there and acting upon anything you feel isn’t normal.

Sometimes, women find BV symptoms (like a fishy odor) embarrassing to talk about and will often misdiagnose themselves and treat their symptoms with a thrush product.

BV can be treated with prescribed antibiotics. Check with your doctor about best options.

Thrush can be treated with antifungal creams, vaginal pessaries, or oral tablets. However, if you’re pregnant or on other medication, be sure to ask your GP about what treatment is best for the infection you may have.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.

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