What’s the difference between thrush and bacterial vaginosis?

Didn’t know there was a difference? Read on…

In a perfect world, your daily commute wouldn't cost a cent; your Monday morning skim latte, free. And if we're here to talk about a dream, parallel universe, often-uncomfortable-to-talk-about conditions like thrush and bacterial vaginosis (BV) simply wouldn't exist.
Well, back here in the real world, the fact of the matter is, they do.
Interestingly, though, the problem doesn't necessarily lie in the fact that thrush and BV merely exist; each condition is easily diagnosable and treatable. It's more that women often confuse these two common vaginal infections, which can lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment.
Don't believe us? As many as 12 per cent of Australian women suffer from BV, with many unaware of its existence at all.
With the help of Dr Fiona Cleary, we look into what the varied signs and symptoms of thrush and BV are, as well as how to treat each of these conditions correctly.

What are the differences between thrush and BV?

"Thrush is a fungal overgrowth causing a variety of symptoms, including thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge, which doesn't smell," Dr Cleary explains. "It can cause itchiness and discomfort and possibly a red rash."
On the other hand, Dr Cleary informs us that BV has a thin, white/grey discharge and causes a fishy smell. "It can cause some mild vaginal discomfort," Dr Cleary continues, adding that BV can also be completely asymptomatic meaning that, sometimes, people with BV may not show any symptoms at all.
The one thing each infection has on common? "Both thrush and BV can be passed on through sexual activity, however, are not considered STIs because you can get them without having sex," says Dr Cleary.

Symptoms of thrush

According to Better Health Victoria, signs of thrush could look like:
  • Itching or burning; general vaginal discomfort
  • A thick, white discharge with a 'cottage cheese' appearance and yeasty smell
  • Redness or swelling of the vagina or vulva
  • Stinging or burning while urinating or during sex
  • Splits in the genital skin

Symptoms of BV

Along with this list of BV symptoms, Better Health Victoria also state that BV can occur at the same time as other sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Here are the signs of BV to look out for:
  • Watery, white or grey discharge from the vagina
  • Strong or unusual odour from the vagina, often described as a 'fishy smell'

How can each infection be treated?

The key to keeping on top of your sexual health is to be aware of what's going on down there and acting upon anything you feel isn't normal.
Sometimes, women find BV symptoms (like a fishy odour) embarrassing to talk about and will often misdiagnose themselves and treat their symptoms with a thrush product.
BV can be treated with a new, non-antibiotic treatment available at pharmacies. Just be sure to speak to your local pharmacist about it as it is located behind the counter.
Thrush can be treated with antifungal creams, vaginal pessaries or oral tablets.However, if you're pregnant or on other medication, be sure to ask your GP about what treatment is best for the infection you may have.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if you are pregnant or about to undergo a medical procedure like the insertion of an IUD or termination of pregnancy that could allow bacteria in the uterus, be sure to book an appointment with your local GP to discuss your options.
This article is sponsored.