Ashley Braun, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and health content writer with over 5 years of experience educating patients on chronic diseases using science-based information.

Learn about our editorial processUpdated on January 16, 2022Medically reviewedVerywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.byMonique Rainford, MD Medically reviewed byMonique Rainford, MD

Monique Rainford, MD, is board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology, and currently serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Medicine. She is the former chief of obstetrics-gynecology at Yale Health.

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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections are both common types of vaginal infections.

Even though they have some symptoms in common, BV is caused by bacteria while yeast infections are caused by fungus. There are both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription treatments available for yeast infections, but for BV you need a prescription.

Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms, causes, treatment, and tips to prevent both BV and yeast infections.


The symptoms of BV and vaginal yeast infections resemble each other closely. This makes it difficult for you to know which type of infection you are dealing with.

The appearance and smell of vaginal discharge help to distinguish between the two.

Yeast infections normally don’t change the smell of vaginal discharge while BV typically causes a strong fish-like odor.

With yeast infections, the vaginal discharge typically becomes thick, white, and cottage cheese-like in appearance. Bacterial vaginosis discharge usually takes on a thinner texture that is grayish-white in color.

Another difference in symptoms is that BV typically doesn’t cause redness or swelling in and around the vagina, while yeast infections do.

Below is more information about common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis vs. yeast infections.

BVYeast Infection


While some of the symptoms of BV and yeast infections overlap, the cause of each is completely different.

BV is a bacterial infection caused by an imbalance in your microbiome or vaginal flora around and inside your vagina.

Bacteria and other microorganisms thrive best in their favorite environments. Any changes to the environment can cause one type of bacteria to grow out of control, leading to infection.

BV is commonly caused by changes in pH levels (how acidic the environment is).

Bacterial Vaginosis or Yeast Infection?

When the acidity changes, the number of lactic acid bacteria drops. This type of bacteria helps maintain the balance of healthy vaginal flora and when the number of lactic acid bacteria goes down, other kinds of bacteria grow more easily.

The bacteria responsible for most BV infections is Gardnerella vaginalis.

Your vaginal pH can be affected by:

Causes and Risk Factors of Bacterial Vaginosis

Yeast infections are caused by fungus. When the pH and environment changes, there is a chance yeast will overgrow.

The type of yeast or fungus responsible for yeast infections is Candida.

Risk factors for Candida overgrowth include:

Causes and Risk Factors of Yeast Infection


If you aren’t sure which type of infection you have, it’s best to take a trip to the healthcare provider. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the types of vaginal infections and finding the cause is important for proper treatment.

If this is your first time experiencing a yeast infection, it’s best to go to the healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis.

During your appointment, your healthcare provider may:


With the different causes of infection, different medications are needed to treat BV and yeast infections. The strength, type, and length of treatment will depend on the severity of the infection.

Whatever treatment option you use, be sure to follow the directions and complete the full treatment course. If you stop partway through your treatment, the infection might not completely clear.

Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics in either pill, gel, or cream form. This typically requires a trip to the healthcare provider’s office to get a prescription for antibiotics.

BV can be treated with:

Treatment Options for Bacterial Vaginosis

Antifungal medications are used to treat yeast infections. Unlike BV, there are both over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescription medications available to treat yeast infections. These include:

How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection


Vaginal infections are common, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risks of them coming back.

The following tips may help prevent BV and yeast infections:

A Word From Verywell

Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections are easy to confuse because of their similar symptoms. But the treatment needed to clear the infection is vastly different. Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications, while BV typically requires a prescription from a healthcare provider for an antibiotic.

If you aren’t sure what is causing your infection or if it returns, talk with your healthcare provider. You may need a stronger medication, or you may be treating for the wrong type of infection.

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