Infection Detection: Yeast Beast or Something More Serious?

By Sally Jones

If it's itchy down there, it must be a yeast infection, right? Wrong.

Before you run to the drugstore for an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-fungal treatment, you might want to re-evaluate your symptoms. An estimated 44 percent of women with a vaginal infection initially treat themselves with an OTC yeast infection medication when they actually have bacterial vaginosis (BV), a much more serious infection caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that occur naturally in the vagina.

Bacterial Vaginosis A-Z Guide

A yeast infection, on the other hand, is caused by an overgrowth of fungus that occur naturally in the vagina.

Yeast Infection A-Z Guide

In fact, the outward symptoms of many forms of vaginal infection are similar. Here's a quick chart to help you detect whether it's the yeast beast -- or something more serious.

Yeast Infection? Or Something More Serious?Yeast Infection? Or Something More Serious?


If your discharge is a milky gray-white, or if it's accompanied by a fishy or foul odor, see your doctor right away. OTC yeast-infection medications are not an effective treatment for bacterial vaginal infections and, in fact, may be harmful if they delay proper treatment.

Untreated BV can lead to significant health complications, including premature delivery, postpartum infections, clinically apparent and subclinical pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), postsurgical complications (after abortion, hysterectomy, cesarean section and other reproductive procedures), increased vulnerability to HIV infection and, possibly, infertility.

How to tell if your symptoms indicate BV?

Take HealthyWomen's Bacterial Vaginosis Quiz

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