Bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infection: What’s the difference?

There's a difference between bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infection, and here's all that you need to know about the two conditions.

vaginal infections
Protect yourself from vaginal infections. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Aayushi Gupta Published on: 23 February 2022, 18:19 pm IST
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Are you experiencing frequent or painful urination but are confused about exactly which vaginal infection you may have? If that’s the case, you’re not alone. A woman experiences different types of infections throughout her life, and often it becomes a bit difficult to ascertain the exact issue. When it comes to intimate health-related infections, chances are you probably knew that both bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infection are very common female health problems. What you may not know is the difference between them.

Although both types of infections may seem similar, their causes, symptoms, and treatments are quite different. To understand the difference, HealthShots spoke to Dr Swati Gaikwad, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Pune. She explained here how you can differentiate between both the infections.

What is bacterial vaginosis (BV)?

Bacterial vaginosis can be termed as a bacterial infection. So, it is an infection that is more common than you think. It happens when the healthy bacteria are replaced by the bad bacteria in your vagina.

Dr Gaikwad says, “It is seen due to different types of healthy bacteria in the vagina that tend to get out of balance and grow too much. BV is mostly seen due to Gardnerella vaginalis, the most common type of bacteria in one’s vagina.”

If left untreated, this infection can be dangerous because it can cause multiple complications including infertility. If we talk about it causes douching, using vaginal deodorants and other irritating products down there can be the reasons behind the occurrence of BV. Along with this, if you’re sexually active and pregnant you’re at a high risk of getting BV.

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

UTI can be extremely uncomfortable because it can lead to itching and burning sensation while urinating. According to NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), around 50–60 percent of women will develop UTIs in their lifetimes. Do you know why women are prone to UTIs? Well, women have a short urethra compared to men, which shortens the distance and due to this bacteria can travel easily to reach the bladder.

bacterial vaginosis and UTI
A quick diagnosis of this infection can help you treat it on time. Image courtesy: Shuttertock

Dr Gaikwad says, “UTI means the infection of any part of the urinary system that is the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Women tend to suffer from it more when compared to men. The UTI is painful, embarrassing, and annoying, and even leads to serious kidney complications if it spreads there.”

Also, read: Before popping antibiotics, try these 5 home remedies to treat UTI

And that’s why prompt treatment is necessary to prevent UTI from developing into a more serious condition.

The difference between bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infection

It is easy to mistake bacterial vaginosis for a urinary tract infection. The symptoms of BV and UTI can overlap with each other and you may be confused but they’re very different from each other. That’s why you will have to keep an eye on the symptoms and report it to the doctor who will help you with a correct diagnosis.

Let’s take a look at the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infection

1. Discharge

In the case of BV women may experience thin, watery vaginal discharge. But this symptom is rare in the case of UTI.

2. Frequent urination

When you have a UTI, there will be a burning sensation when you urinate, or you may feel a need to urinate more frequently. But in the case of BV, you will not experience frequent urination.

bacterial vaginosis and UTI
Frequent urination could be a sign of other underlying health issues such as UTI. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Pain in the abdomen

If you’re experiencing pain in the abdomen then you might have UTI because it is a common symptom of it but it isn’t a common symptom of BV.

Common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infection

1. Painful urination

BV and UTI symptoms tend to invite pain while urinating or discomfort down there. But, remember that they need different approaches to treatment.

2. Itching and discharge

Along with experiencing pain when urinating, itching down there is a common symptom of BV and UTI.

3. Foul-smelling urine

Apart from these symptoms, having a strong and unpleasant smell is a common symptom among BV and UTI.

Visit your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms as your doctor will be able to differentiate between the symptoms and treat the underlying conditions.

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About the Author
Aayushi Gupta Aayushi Gupta

Candid, outspoken, but prudent--Aayushi is exploring her place in media world.

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