Yeast Infection (Vaginal)

What is a Yeast Infection?

Vaginal yeast infections are a common type of infection and affect women of nearly any age. This type of infection, which is also referred to as candidiasis or a candida yeast infection, is a fungal infection. The fungus candida normally inhabits the vagina. However, in a healthy vagina, there are also what are referred to as “good bacteria.” This type of bacteria, known as the lactobacillus bacteria, keeps the candida levels in check.

When that bacteria is absent or not sufficient, candida overgrowth occurs, and a vaginal yeast infection develops. Any woman can develop a vaginal yeast infection. In fact, seventy-five percent of women (or 3 in 4) will suffer from a vaginal yeast infection at one point or another in their lives.

The problem with the levels of lactobacillus bacteria and candida in the vagina can occur for a variety of reasons. The use of antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection can cause this imbalance. Pregnancy too can throw off balance in the vagina as can stress, a poor diet, dehydration, obesity, and diabetes.

What are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?

Vaginal yeast infections can cause a wide variety of symptoms.

Infections include:

These infections can cause severe vaginal itching. A burning sensation is also common, especially when urinating or wiping after urinating.  The vaginal area can also become red and inflamed and may be more irritated during or immediately after sexual intercourse. Thick white discharge is also a common sign of a vaginal yeast infection. This discharge may also be clumpy like cottage cheese.

Yeast Infection Causes

A vaginal yeast infection is a condition that is common in females where an imbalance in naturally occurring bacteria occurs. Under normal circumstances, a woman’s vagina has both bacteria and some yeast cells present. When that balance changes, yeast cells grow out of control.

This growth can cause itching, swelling and irritation. Although sexual contact can cause a yeast infection to spread, it is not considered a sexually transmitted condition.

In fact, although a yeast infection can spread with sexual contact, even women who have not had sex can get yeast infections. Once a woman has had a yeast infection, she is likely to encounter another in future.

How is a Yeast Infection Treated?

For a single, isolated vaginal yeast infection, treatment with a basic anti-fungal treatment can be effective. There are suppository anti-fungal medications that can be purchased over-the-counter. If a yeast infection is persistent after an over-the-counter treatment, there are prescription topical and suppository treatments as well as oral pills that can be used to treat yeast infections.

For recurrent infections, more long-term therapies may be necessary such as 14-day antifungal treatments.

Yeast Infection Prevention

In many cases, yeast infections are just one of those things that happen. As a result, in many cases, prevention is difficult. In other cases, however, you can lower the chances that you will get a yeast infection simply by taking care of yourself and practicing good health habits. This includes eating a well-balanced diet, yogurt or taking supplements that contain lactobacillus, wearing clothing made of natural fibers such as cotton, silk, or linen, wearing clean underwear that has been thoroughly washed in hot water, and replacing feminine hygiene products often.

Other practices that can help prevent a yeast infection include wearing tight pants, pantyhose, leggings or tights, using scented feminine deodorant, tampons or pads, wearing wet clothing, especially bathing suits for prolonged periods, sitting in hot tubs or taking frequent hot baths, or douching.

It is also important to remember that all women are different. Most women will know what is likely to cause a yeast infection in their bodies. For example, many women find themselves susceptible to yeast infections after they have taken antibiotics. The most important thing is to know your body and what you need to prepare for if you sense a yeast infection coming on.

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Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 08, 2017