What is vaginal yeast infection?

Vaginal Yeast Infection

Vaginal yeast infection: Overview

A vaginal yeast infection is the growth of too many yeast cells in the vagina. This is a common problem. Itching, vaginal discharge and irritation, and other symptoms can bother you. But yeast infections don't often cause other health problems.

Some medicines can increase your risk of getting a yeast infection. These include antibiotics, hormones, and steroids. You may also be more likely to get a yeast infection if you are pregnant, have diabetes, douche, or wear tight clothes.

With treatment, most yeast infections get better in a few days.

Vaginal yeast infection

A vaginal yeast infection is an overgrowth of normal yeast cells in your vagina. It may be itchy and annoying, but a yeast infection usually isn't serious.

What happens when you have a vaginal yeast infection?

Vaginal yeast infections may clear up on their own without treatment. This may happen when menstruation begins.

If your symptoms don't go away on their own, treatment can help. But in some cases yeast infections may be difficult to treat. Or they may come back after treatment. If you have a recurring yeast infection, you may be evaluated for other causes (such as diabetes, hormone therapy, or treatment-resistant strains of yeast) so that the cause can be treated.

What are the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection?

A yeast infection can cause itching or irritation in the vagina or vulva. It sometimes causes pain or burning when you urinate or have sex. And it may also cause a thick, clumpy, white discharge that has no odor and looks a little like cottage cheese.

How is a vaginal yeast infection treated?

Yeast infections can be treated with an over-the-counter antifungal medicine that you put into your vagina. If you think you have a yeast infection, talk to your doctor before you try an over-the-counter medicine. Treatment options also include a prescription oral pill or vaginal medicine.

How are recurrent vaginal yeast infections treated?

Recurrent vaginal yeast infections are usually treated with several doses of an oral pill or with vaginal medicine for a longer amount of time.

This first treatment may be followed by up to 6 months of maintenance therapy. This could be oral or vaginal medicines.

If symptoms don't improve after treatment, more testing and treatment may be needed.

How can you help prevent a vaginal yeast infection?

Genital hygiene practices can help prevent yeast infections. Wash your vulva with plain water or unscented soap. After using the toilet, wipe from front to back. Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Wear cotton underwear. Change out of damp clothes right away. Change pads or tampons often. Don't douche or use vaginal powders, sprays, or perfumes.

How is a vaginal yeast infection diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose a vaginal yeast infection by asking about your symptoms and medical history, doing a pelvic exam, and taking a sample of vaginal discharge. The sample can be tested to find out if you have a yeast infection.

How can you care for yourself when you have a vaginal yeast infection?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Ask your doctor about over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for yeast infections. If you use an OTC treatment, read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Don't use tampons while using a vaginal cream or suppository. The tampons can absorb the medicine. Use pads instead.
  • Wear loose cotton clothing. Don't wear nylon or other fabric that holds body heat and moisture close to the skin.
  • Try sleeping without underwear.
  • Don't scratch. Relieve itching with a cold pack or a cool bath.
  • Don't wash your vulva more than once a day. Use plain water or a mild, unscented soap. Air-dry the vulva.
  • Change out of wet or damp clothes as soon as possible.
  • If you are using a vaginal medicine, don't have sex until you have finished your treatment. But if you do have sex, don't depend on a condom or diaphragm for birth control. The oil in some vaginal medicines weakens latex.
  • Don't douche or use powders, sprays, or perfumes in your vagina or on your vulva. These items can change the normal balance of organisms in your vagina.

What increases your risk of getting a vaginal yeast infection?

Your risk of getting a vaginal yeast infection can be increased by several things. These include:

  • Use of antibiotics. They upset the normal balance between yeast and bacteria in the vagina. This can allow too much yeast to grow in the vagina.
  • Problems with your immune system that affect the balance of yeast and bacteria in the body. People who have HIV or diabetes that's not well-controlled may have too much yeast in the vagina. Those who take steroid medicines or who are pregnant may also have weakened immune systems.
  • Wearing tight-fitting, nonabsorbent pants or underwear that hold in warmth and moisture.
  • Using hygiene sprays, powders, or perfumes in the vagina or on the vulva.
  • Douching.

Vaginal yeast infections are not sexually transmitted.

What is a vaginal yeast infection?

Yeast is a fungus that normally lives in the vagina in small numbers. A vaginal yeast infection means that too many yeast cells are growing in the vagina. These infections are very common. They may bother you a lot, but they usually aren't serious. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

What causes vaginal yeast infections?

A healthy vagina has many bacteria and a few yeast cells. When something changes the balance of these organisms, yeast can grow too much and cause symptoms. Things that may increase your risk for vaginal yeast overgrowth include taking antibiotics, high estrogen levels from pregnancy or hormone therapy, or certain health problems, like diabetes.

Vaginal yeast infection: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or increased pain in your vagina or pelvis.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have unexpected vaginal bleeding.
  • You have a fever.
  • You are not getting better after 2 days.
  • Your symptoms come back after you finish your medicines.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.