Yeast infection (vaginal)
Yeast infection (vaginal)
A vaginal yeast infection is a type of vaginitis — inflammation of the vagina — characterized by vaginal irritation, intense itchiness and vaginal discharge. A vaginal yeast infection affects your vagina and the tissues at the opening to your vagina (vulva).
Vaginal yeast infection — also called candidiasis — is very common. As many as 3 out of 4 women experience a yeast infection at some point in their lifetimes. Many women experience two or more yeast infections.
A vaginal yeast infection isn't considered a sexually transmitted disease, although the fungus that causes the condition can be spread through oral-genital contact. Treatment is usually effective, unless you have recurrent yeast infections — four or more in a single year. In that case, you may need a longer course of therapy and to follow a maintenance regimen.
Yeast infection symptoms range from mild to severe, including:
When to see a doctor
A vaginal yeast infection is caused by the fungus candida. Candida is a microorganism that's normally present in your vagina, along with bacteria. Your vagina naturally contains a balanced mix of yeast and bacteria. Lactobacillus bacteria produce acid, which discourages overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. But disruption of the healthy balance can result in an overgrowth of yeast. Too much yeast in your vagina can lead to vaginal itching, burning, and other classic signs and symptoms of a yeast infection.
Overgrowth of yeast can result from:
Most often, yeast infection results from a type of candida fungus known as Candida albicans. Sometimes, however, a different type of candida fungus might be the cause of symptoms. Candida albicans responds well to typical treatments for yeast infections. Other types of candida, however, sometimes respond poorly to conventional therapies and may require more aggressive treatment.
A yeast infection can be sexually transmitted, especially through oral-genital sexual contact. However, yeast infection isn't considered a sexually transmitted disease because it happens in celibate women and the candida fungus is naturally present in the vagina.
Among the things that increase your risk of developing a yeast infection are:
Preparing for your appointment
If you've been treated for a yeast infection in the past, your doctor may not need to see you and may prescribe a treatment over the phone. Otherwise, you'll likely see your family doctor or gynecologist to treat your condition.
What you can do
Also make a list of medications or supplements you're taking and any allergies you have. Write down questions to ask your doctor. Some basic questions include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
Questions your doctor may ask
Tests and diagnosis
To diagnose a yeast infection, your doctor may:
Treatments and drugs
Yeast infection treatment depends on whether you have an uncomplicated or a complicated infection.
Uncomplicated yeast infection
Make a follow-up appointment with your doctor if you've finished your treatment and your symptoms haven't gone away or if your symptoms return within two months of being treated.
Many topical treatments for a yeast infection are available over-the-counter. If you've tried one of these and your symptoms don't go away, see your doctor.
Complicated yeast infection
Treatment for a complicated yeast infection might include:
Usually, your sex partner doesn't also need to be treated for a yeast infection. However, for problems with recurrent yeast infections, your doctor might also recommend treatment for your partner or use of condoms with intercourse.
Lifestyle and home remedies
A number of natural products purport to prevent or cure vaginal yeast infections without prescription medication. Some popular yeast infection home remedies include:
Anecdotally, some women report success with these home remedies. However, well-designed, randomized, controlled trials are needed to investigate the safety and effectiveness of these therapies before any reliable clinical recommendations can be made.
One exception may be lactobacillus, bacteria normally found in the vagina, but scientific evidence of benefit is limited. Some studies show that lactobacillus — available in some types of yogurt — taken orally or used intravaginally successfully reduced the amount of vaginal yeast cultures and provided symptom relief. But the studies were in a small number of women, with no control groups, and other studies haven't been able to corroborate those findings.
To reduce your risk of vaginal yeast infection:
Last Updated: 2010-05-18
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