BV or Thrush?

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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and Thrush are both infections that can be caused by a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. The vagina contains millions of bacteria. When these microorganisms are in balance, they help to keep the area free of infections, but if there is too much or too little of certain types of bacteria, infections are more likely to develop.

BV and Thrush are fairly common infections in women. Below, we’ve identified the differences between the two and how to tell which infection you might have.

What is the difference between Thrush and BV?

Both infections can be caused by a disruption in the natural vaginal flora, however this is where the similarities end.

BV is an infection that’s caused by an imbalance of bacteria. One of the ‘good’ kinds of bacteria in your vagina is Lactobacillus. These bacteria are excellent at fighting off potential infections. But a change in the vagina’s environment, such as increased acidity, can cause their growth to decrease. Other forms of bacteria may begin to grow in their place, leaving your vagina ‘unbalanced’. It is this imbalance that can cause BV to develop. Using overly scented or perfumed products, such as soaps, bubble bath and vaginal deodorants, can change the acidity levels in your vagina, which could increase your chances of contracting BV.

Whereas BV is caused by a bacterial imbalance, Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the natural yeast that lives in the vagina. In a similar way to BV, an overly acidic vagina can cause additional yeast to grow. 

Because the infections are caused by two different kinds of microorganisms, they will need very different forms of treatment. Both can be treated at home with a BV Gel or Thrush cream respectively. Alternatively, you could consult your doctor for advice on treatment. 

If you’re sexually active, you need to ensure that your partner isn’t experiencing any symptoms of either BV or Thrush. Thrush can be passed on sexually to both men and women. Although BV is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, it can be passed from woman to woman. You should ask your partner whether they’re experiencing symptoms too. It’s worth noting that the bacteria that causes BV does not affect men.

 

Have I got BV or Thrush?

The symptoms of BV and Thrush are very different. Both infections can cause excess discharge, however, the smell and consistency of the discharge tends to differ depending on which infection you have. With BV, the discharge is likely to be off-white or grey in colour with a very thin and watery consistency. It usually has a noticeable fishy smell.

If you have Thrush, the discharge will probably be very different. It may be thick and creamy in consistency and it usually doesn’t have a smell. Some women with Thrush experience burning when they wee or have sex. The main symptom of this infection is excessive itching and discomfort in the vaginal area. You may not have any discharge with Thrush - every woman can experience different symptoms.

 

Can you have Thrush and BV at the same time?

It is possible to have Thrush and BV at the same time. You should monitor your symptoms carefully and consult a doctor for advice about potential treatment.

 

How to prevent Thrush and BV

There are some steps that you can take that may help to protect your vagina’s natural environment and reduce your chances of contracting Thrush or BV in the future.

You should try to avoid wearing tight clothing or materials that don’t allow the skin to breathe. These could include tights, nylon underwear, tight jeans or lycra shorts. Instead, try to wear cotton underwear and more loose-fitting clothing where possible.

When you go to the toilet, remember to wipe the area from front to back. This will prevent any unwanted bacteria from spreading, which could lead to further infections. 

Strongly scented products should be avoided when you can. These can increase the acidity in the vagina and may lead to more infections in the future. Lots of products on the market have additional scent, including toilet paper, tampons and pads. You may want to find unscented versions instead. This also goes for using strong products around the vaginal area, such as bubble bath, vaginal deodorant or body wash. As an alternative, you should use a soap-free wash or foam that’s made specifically for sensitive areas.

Smoking could have an impact on your vaginal health too, so you should try to curb the habit.

If you experience these infections regularly, there may be certain triggers that cause them. You should monitor any products that you’re using to see which of them might be the culprit.