Identifying yeast infections and Bacterial Vaginosis

julie_thumbnailAs a nurse practitioner, my days are filled with women: meeting with them, talking to them, performing exams and offering advice. Although these women spend all day, every day with their bodies, oftentimes they still feel that changes in their bodies and the hows and whys of many clinical screenings are a complete mystery. Let’s face it—we don’t exactly come with a handbook.

I recently got a question that is not at all uncommon for me to hear. A woman sent me an email because she was concerned about vaginal odor and some itching. Her description doesn’t sound like a yeast infection since there is often significant itching but no odor in those cases.

Yeast infections can be cured with over-the-counter medicines like Monistat. However, in this woman’s case, my instinct tells me it is Bacterial Vaginosis. I’m glad she reached out because she’ll need to see a doctor for treatment and get antibiotics to clear it up.

I wanted to share he question and my response to her with you in case you—or someone you know—might be having the same symptoms, too.

Dear Julie,

I have a bad vaginal odor that started a few months ago. No other symptoms. After looking online I think it may be BV. I don’t have health insurance and wanted to know if there is anything over the counter to cure this.


Dear D,

There are many types of vaginal infections. The two most common is bacterial vaginosis and yeast. The symptoms can be really confusing, but it is important to know what’s causing the symptoms since the treatment for the two conditions is very different.

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection that usually causes a yellow discharge with a fishy smell.  It can cause some itching. The medicine for this is not sold over the counter so a trip to your doctor is necessary. Your doctor can look at the discharge under the microscope and tell the difference or they will send a culture test to a lab.

Yeast on the other hand causes crazy itching but usually no odor. The medicine for this is sold over the counter. Yeast infections are often a result of a woman taking antibiotics. Antibiotic can cause the normal flora in the vagina to be interrupted and allow fungus to grow.

A call to your doctor is the best idea so the proper treatment can be prescribed. If you do not have an OBGYN we can help.

Is there a clinic in your area that takes uninsured? St.Vincent has the primary care clinic on Naab Road that takes patients as long as the county they live in touches Marion County.  The number there is 317-338-7810. I also see patients and you can fill out a financial form to be considered for reduced cost care. The number to my office is 317-415-8163. I hope this helps.

Take care,

Do you have any women’s health related questions or concerns? If so, let me help you out. All you need to do is complete and submit this form and I’ll be in touch. Or you can always call 317-338-4Her to talk to a nurse anytime.


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