Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV)are often mistaken for thrush, even though you are twice as likely to have BV – so we want to help women identify the problem so that they can get the right treatment.
We don’t pay much attention to how our vaginas smell or feel when things are in balance, but a slight disruption to your normal vaginal pH can result in a vaginal condition such as thrush or BV, both of which are uncomfortable and annoying. Getting the right BV or thrush treatment is simple and can clear things up quickly – so it’s important to understand which you have, or whether you have something else that might need examination or treatment from a healthcare professional.
The guide below shows the most common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and thrush symptoms. If you’re not sure what it is, but you notice a problem with your vaginal health you can visit the symptom checker to find out more, there is also the opportunity to ask an expert for more detailed advice.
Discomfort, changes in discharge, an itchy vagina, or a change in your normal smell can all be signs that you could have a vaginal health issue, and paying attention to your symptoms can help make sure you get the right treatment quickly.
It’s likely to be thrush:
- Discharge: thick, white, possibly like cottage cheese
- Smell: No difference in vaginal smell
- Itching: Yes – and possible burning sensation around the vulva.
It’s likely to be bacterial vaginosis, or BV
- Discharge: Can be thin, watery, greyish or simply more than usual.
- Smell: Can be a fishy odour, or no smell at all.
- Itching: Not usually, but a change in discharge can cause discomfort
BV and thrush are quite different conditions, BV is caused by a disruption to the normal vaginal pH balance, which means there are fewer ‘good’ bacteria (Lactobacillus) which help to fight the more harmful bacteria that cause BV. In effect, your body’s natural protective force is depleted, allowing the bacteria that cause BV to take over. Thrush symptoms can also be triggered when your body is out of balance, but it’s caused by an invasion of the fungus Candida, which needs an anti-fungal treatment.
It’s important to speak to a healthcare professional at your doctors, GUM clinic or pharmacy if you’re still not sure or think you may have something else. They can refer for testing to help you identify the problem and get the right treatment. Leaving things untreated can sometimes lead to complications or make other conditions such as STI’s more likely so it’s best to get things sorted as soon as possible. It’s especially important to speak to your healthcare professional if you think you may be pregnant or if you are trying to conceive as untreated BV can make complications more likely.