Overview and Facts
A yeast infection is a vaginal infection that occurs when too many yeast cells are growing in the vagina. Yeast infections are very common and about 75% of women will develop one in her lifetime. Up to 92% of yeast infections occur as a result of the fungus Candida albicans, so yeast infections are sometimes referred to as Candidiasis. They are not serious infections and can be taken care of with simple medical treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of a yeast infection vary and tend to occur in the week before menstruation begins. Yeast infection symptoms can include any of the following:
- Vaginal discharge that ranges from a watery white discharge to a thick, cottage cheese-like discharge
- Pain during intercourse or urination
- Itchy or burning feeling in the vagina
Causes and Diagnosis
A healthy vagina has both bacteria and yeast in it, including the most common type of yeast that causes yeast infections, Candida albicans. All these bacteria typically work together to keep each other balanced. But sometimes, certain conditions cause yeast grows too much, which starts to cause yeast infection symptoms such as abnormal vaginal discharge. This imbalance in the vagina relating to yeast growth occurs only in certain favorable conditions, including:
- Taking certain antibiotics to treat infections
- Having high estrogen levels
- Being pregnant or obese
- Having diabetes
A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease or infection; however, some men might experience an irritation of the genital area such as itching or a rash after having sexual contact with someone who has a yeast infection.
If yeast infection symptoms are present, you should see a doctor to determine if you have a yeast infection or if another condition is causing these symptoms. A doctor will usually do a pelvic and vaginal exam to look for inflammation of the skin in the vagina and on the cervix. Also, a sample of vaginal discharge may be examined under a microscope to look for Candida – this is called a wet mount.
Tests and Treatment Options
If yeast infection symptoms are mild and there is no pelvic pain along with it, it may just clear on its own without needing any medical treatment. If you are not pregnant, you have had a previous yeast infection and you recognize the symptoms as a yeast infection, treatment can be done at home with over-the-counter medications. Yeast infections are common during pregnancy, and if you are or suspect you may be pregnant, don’t take any yeast infection medication without first speaking to your doctor.
Medicines for yeast infections usually come as antifungal creams, tablets taken orally or a suppository that you insert into the vagina. Common medications are clotrimazole, butoconazole and miconazole. Usually, medicines need to be taken for 3-7 days, depending on the medicine. A medicine called fluconazole can treat a yeast infection with a single pill.
Helpful Tips and Home Remedies
Yeast infections are preventable, so following these tips can help reduce your risk of getting a yeast infection:
- Keep genital area clean and dry
- Don’t keep wet swimsuits on for a long period time
- Wear cotton underwear, avoid silk or nylon fabrics
- Don’t douche
- Eat yogurt
- Don’t wear tight-fitting pants or shorts
- Try to avoid scented toilet paper and deodorized tampons
- Use a condom when having sexual intercourse