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Dealing with an infection can be especially frustrating when we don't know where it came from, or how it occurred. This guide is here to support you in understanding the differences between these three common infections: bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, and yeast infections.
Bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, and yeast infections are caused by different types of microorganisms and due to where these infections occur anatomically, they may be interconnected.
|Bacterial Vaginosis||Urinary Tract Infections||Yeast Infections|
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is an inflammatory condition resulting from the overgrowth of "bad" bacteria in the vagina. The most common type of bacteria that causes this infection is Gardnerella vaginalis.
Vaginal Yeast Infections are caused by an overgrowth of yeast and can affect both the vagina and vulva. Up to 80% of all yeast infections are commonly caused by an overgrowth of a type of yeast called Candida albicans.
Up to 90% of UTIs are caused by a type of bacteria, E. coli (pictured)
Cloudy urine instead of transparent, or blood in the urine
Constant urge to urinate, painful urination, urinating small amounts, pelvic pain, fevers, or chills
Most commonly due to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria called G. vaginalis (pictured)
Gray or white discharge
Itching or burning pain in the vagina, itching around the vagina, and a strong fishy-smelling odor
Up to 80% of yeast infections are commonly caused by an overgrowth of a type of yeast called Candida albicans. (pictured)
White, thick, cottage cheese-like discharge
Redness and swelling of the vulva, vaginal dryness, painful urination, and painful intercourse
Currently, the only known treatment option for UTIs is antibotics. BV can be treated with antibiotics or boric acid, and yeast infections can be treated with an anti-fungal or boric acid.
Antibiotics work by killing bacteria to stop the bacteria from spreading any further. The process to kill bacteria includes attacking the wall or coating that surrounds the bacteria, disrupting their ability to reproduce, and blocking protein production within them (6).
Due to the wide variety of bacterial strains that could cause an infection, it is imperative to recieve proper testing so your doctor can prescribe the appropriate antibiotic treatment.
Anti-fungals work by stopping fungus from multiplying and growing. Just like antibitoics, there are multiple types of anti-fungals that vary based on the type of an infection and your doctor will pick the best option (7). Note that anti-fungals for yeast infections can be oral, or vaginally inserted.
Boric Acid is an over the counter is a suppository treatment option for BV and yeast infections and is not to be taken orally. It works to help promote the proper acid balance in the vagina (8).
The vaginal microbiome is a key component of vaginal and urinary health. Each of these infections could be due to an inbalance of the vaginal microbiome.
When the microbiome is off balance, it could lead to infections. A healthy vaginal microbiome is dominated by the healthy bacteria called lactobacillus. This bacteria works by regulating the vaginal pH to keep it between 3.8 and 4.5. When vaginal pH balance is off, that means lactobacilli levels can be low and can’t keep opportunistic pathogens in check. So, the harmful bacteria can flourish and colonize the vagina.
If there is a rise in pH, this can allow for an overgrowth of the "bad" bacteria that causes BV. Research has shown that those who experience BV, have up to a 13.7x increased risk of contracting a UTI. This could be explained by the connection between bladder health and vaginal health.
This guide is here to support you in identifying differences in infections and is not intended to replace medical advice. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend seeking care from a medical professional.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, February 10). CDC - bacterial vaginosis statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stats.htm
Cleveland Clinic. Antifungals. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/21715-antifungals