Gardnerella and yeast infections are both common types of infections that can affect your reproductive system. However, there are certain characteristics that can help you differentiate them so you can get the correct diagnosis and treatment if you ever develop either of these conditions.
Read below and discover whether Gardnerella is the same as a yeast infection.
Is Gardnerella a yeast infection?
The short answer is: no.
Gardnerella vaginalis is a type of bacteria that commonly causes a vaginal infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV, according to the CDC, is the most commonly reported vaginal condition in women aged 15-44 in the United States.
On the other hand, a yeast infection, or candidiasis, is a type of infection caused by a fungus called Candida. The most common type of Candida that causes yeast infections is called Candida albicans.
Under normal circumstances, both Gardnerella vaginalis and Candida albicans are part of your vaginal flora, where they exist in balance with other microbes. However, certain factors can alter this balance and cause an overgrowth of either Gardnerella or Candida, leading to BV or candidiasis, respectively.
Symptoms of Gardnerella vaginalis
A significant percentage of Gardnerella vaginalis infections are completely asymptomatic, but it can also cause a variety of symptoms. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV) can include:
- Thin white, gray, or greenish vaginal discharge
- A “fishy” vaginal smell that gets worse after intercourse
- Vaginal itching or soreness
- Pain during urination
Symptoms of a yeast infection
According to the NHS, the symptoms of a genital yeast infection can include:
- Thick white genital discharge that doesn’t have a smell and resembles cottage cheese
- Intense genital itching
- Genital swelling and redness
- Pain during urination and/or intercourse
- Cracks and small lacerations in your genitals
Yeast infections can affect many other parts of the human body, such as the mouth and skin. In other parts of the body, yeast infections typically cause an itchy rash or scaly, flaky lesions. Oral thrush is also common among newborns, and the infection can be passed back and forth between the baby’s mouth and the mother’s skin.
Gardnerella vs. yeast infection: similarities and differences
Despite the fact that BV and candidiasis are two different conditions, they do share some similarities. For example, neither one of them is considered to be a true STD, since they both result from an imbalance in your vaginal flora and aren’t spread from one person to another. However, the risk for both of these infections increases after having sex, especially unprotected sex.
Both Gardnerella and candidiasis are more common in women. But while Gardnerella doesn’t cause symptoms in men, candidiasis can cause symptoms in both men and women.
The types of discharge caused by BV and candidiasis are generally easy to tell apart: candidiasis discharge is thicker, white, itchy, and doesn’t typically have a smell. BV discharge, on the other hand, is thinner, can be gray or greenish, and it causes a characteristic “fishy” smell. This “fishy” smell can also be felt after having sex, which is another telltale sign of BV. Meanwhile, candidiasis causes distinctive intense genital itching and swelling.
The treatment for both of these conditions is also completely different, since they’re caused by different pathogens. Bacterial vaginosis, as its name suggests, is caused by a bacterial overgrowth, while candidiasis is caused by a fungal overgrowth. As a result, bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics, while candidiasis can be treated with antifungals. Both conditions can be treated effectively with topical or oral medications, depending on your personal history, drug allergies, and the severity of your symptoms.
When to go to the doctor
Although candidiasis and BV are both relatively common and simple infections, they can also lead to complications if left untreated.
Untreated candidiasis will usually continue to get worse, and the cracks in your skin can make it easier for you to get a bacterial skin infection in the same area. These cracks can also increase your risk of getting an STD if you’re exposed to it, including HIV.
But the possible complications of BV can be far more serious. According to Medscape, BV complications can include:
- Pelvic inflammatory (PID)
- Bacteremia (sepsis)
- Neonatal meningitis
- Neonatal cellulitis/skin infections
It’s important to seek medical assistance if you notice new symptoms affecting your reproductive system. In addition to BV and candidiasis, many different STDs can cause similar symptoms, and it’s important to get comprehensive testing so you can get an accurate diagnosis. Due to the risk of further health complications and spreading the disease to a new partner, it’s vital to make sure that you receive the right treatment for any STD.
There are many different ways to get tested for STDs: you could make an appointment with your primary care physician, visit a clinic or urgent care center, or simply order a testing kit online. Thanks to at-home STD testing, you’ll be able to collect your own sample from the privacy of your own home and get confidential and accurate results. Getting tested regularly is the best way to protect yourself and your partners from any possible health problems caused by STDs.
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Statistics - cdc.gov
- Bacterial Vaginosis - my.clevelandclinic.org
- Thrush in men and women - nhs.uk
- Which are possible complications of bacterial vaginosis (BV)? - medscape.com