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What's The Difference Between A Yeast Infection & Bacterial Vaginosis? Science Explains

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When there's trouble downtown, it makes life hell. Anyone who's had a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (BV) could write epics about how uncomfortable, embarrassing, and frustrating it is to go through it, and be treated for it, all while trying to have a normal day. Have you ever tried to discreetly scratch your vag in an editorial meeting? Let me tell you, it's not easy. Treatment is key, but you can't do that without first properly identifying the problem. So what's the difference between a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis? You're not alone if you're having trouble deciphering. Vaginas are tricky, and so are their problems.

Both yeast infections and BV are common maladies affecting the vagina. They're both from the overproduction of naturally occurring organisms that live in your vagina. With a yeast infection, it's the overproduction of yeast, a natural fungus living in your vagina. BV is when the vagina has too much or the wrong bacteria colonizing in the vagina, according to Planned Parenthood. BV is actually more common than yeast infections and causes itching, grayish white discharge, and an unplesant fishy odor. Yeast causes a cottage cheese textured and colored discharge, itching, and bread-like, beery, yeasty odor.

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The biggest difference, according to Multi-GYN, is the color, texture, and odor of the discharge.

Still unsure how to tell if it's yeast or BV? If you pull down your underwear and think, "brewery," or "sourdough starter," then it's likely you're dealing with yeast. The discharge may even resemble a sourdough starter. It's white, clumpy, and runny.

However, if you sit down to take care of the problem and you find a strong, fishy odor, it's probably BV, which also causes a grayish white, pasty, or yogurt-like textured discharge that makes you want to scratch your vulva until it's redder than that one time you tried the at-home microwave Brazilian wax, according to Rebecca Hulem, RN, Gyn Nurse Practitioner, Certified Menopause Clinician.

Thankfully, there are over-the-counter treatments for both, but like everything, they might not be as effective as something your doctor prescribes for you. If that's the case, or if you've already reached peak vagina scratch pain, call your primary care physician or OB-GYN, and they can get you something a bit stronger for the issue. This is typically an anti-fungal like Diflucan or antibiotic like Flagyl, according to the Mayo Clinic. Make sure you take them exactly as they are prescribed, and if you're on birth control, use a backup birth control for as long as indicated.

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Whatever you do, though, do not seek out homeopathic remedies for your yeast infection or your BV. Now, I'm not telling you to stop eating yogurt or quit taking your probiotic. Heck, I'm not even telling you to stop your reiki or vaginal meditations if that's a thing. I'm saying that the old wives' tales you've heard of that magically cure your yeast infection or BV are false, and can make things worse. The main remedies I'm talking about are the food on the vag fixes. Under no circumstances should you place a garlic clove in your vagina, hoping it will fix your yeast. It will make it worse, noted Scientific American.

The other fix that's gaining steam lately with the essential oil craze is using tea tree oil in a douche or on a tampon to get rid of the yeast or bacterial vaginosis. This is a very painful idea without scientific backing. Tea tree oil is very harsh on sensitive tissue, and your lady parts are nothing if not sensitive.

The one homeopathic remedy that seems to have some scientific reasoning behind it is yogurt. Plain, no sugar added yogurt, applied topically, may help with the symptoms, but essentially, the jury is still out, according to Columbia University.

The differences between yeast and BV are subtle, but recognizable, and the treatments are different, so be sure you know before you treat.

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