Yeast infections

From WikiMD

Most women will get a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their life. Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include burning, itching, and thick, white discharge.

Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called CandidaCandida normally lives inside the body (in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina) and on skin without causing any problems. Sometimes Candida can multiply and cause an infection if the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages its growth. Candidiasis in the vagina is commonly called a “vaginal yeast infection.” Other names for this infection are “vaginal candidiasis,” “vulvovaginal candidiasis,” or “candidal vaginitis.”

 Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections

The symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include:1,2

  • Vaginal itching or soreness
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

Although most vaginal candidiasis is mild, some women can develop severe infections involving redness, swelling, and cracks in the wall of the vagina.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms. These symptoms are similar to those of other types of vaginal infections, which are treated with different types of medicines. A healthcare provider can tell you if you have vaginal candidiasis and how to treat it.

Risk & Prevention vaginal yeast infections

Who gets vaginal candidiasis?

Vaginal candidiasis is common, though more research is needed to understand how many women are affected. Women who are more likely to get vaginal candidiasis include those who:

  • Are pregnant
  • Use hormonal contraceptives (for example, birth control pills)
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a weakened immune system (for example, due to HIV infection or medicines that weaken the immune system, such as steroids and chemotherapy)
  • Are taking or have recently taken antibiotics
 How can I prevent vaginal candidiasis?

Wearing cotton underwear might help reduce the chances of getting a yeast infection. Because taking antibiotics can lead to vaginal candidiasis, take these medicines only when prescribed and exactly as your healthcare provider tells you.

 Sources

Candida normally lives inside the body (in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina) and on skin without causing any problems. Scientists estimate that about 20% of women normally have Candida in the vagina without having any symptoms. Sometimes, Candida can multiply and cause an infection if the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages its growth. This can happen because of hormones, medicines, or changes in the immune system.

Diagnosis & Testing

A laboratory test is usually needed to diagnose vaginal candidiasis because the symptoms are similar to those of other types of vaginal infections. A healthcare provider will usually diagnose vaginal candidiasis by taking a small sample of vaginal discharge to be examined under a microscope or sent to a laboratory for a fungal culture. However, a positive fungal culture does not always mean that Candida is causing the symptoms because some women can have Candida in the vagina without having any symptoms.

 Treatment

Vaginal candidiasis is usually treated with antifungal medicine. For most infections, the treatment is an antifungal medicine applied inside the vagina or a single dose of fluconazole taken by mouth. For more severe infections, infections that don’t get better, or keep coming back after getting better, other treatments might be needed. These treatments include more doses of fluconazole taken by mouth or other medicines applied inside the vagina such as boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine.

What causes yeast infections?

Yeast infections are caused by overgrowth of the microscopic fungus Candida.

Your vagina may have small amounts of yeast at any given time without causing any symptoms. But when too much yeast grows, you can get an infection.

Can I get a yeast infection from having sex?

Yes. A yeast infection is not considered an STI, because you can get a yeast infection without having sex. But you can get a yeast infection from your sexual partner. Condoms may help prevent getting or passing yeast infections through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

Is it safe to use over-the-counter medicines for yeast infections?

Yes, but always talk with your doctor or nurse before treating yourself for a vaginal yeast infection. This is because:

  • You may be trying to treat an infection that is not a yeast infection. Studies show that two out of three women who buy yeast infection medicine don't really have a yeast infection. Instead, they may have an STI or bacterial vaginosis (BV). STIs and BV require different treatments than yeast infections and, if left untreated, can cause serious health problems.
  • Using treatment when you do not actually have a yeast infection can cause your body to become resistant to the yeast infection medicine. This can make actual yeast infections harder to treat in the future.
  • Some yeast infection medicine may weaken condoms and diaphragms, increasing your chance of getting pregnant or an STI when you have sex. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what is best for you, and always read and follow the directions on the medicine carefully.

How do I treat a yeast infection if I'm pregnant?

During pregnancy, it's safe to treat a yeast infection with vaginal creams or suppositories that contain miconazole or clotrimazole.

Do not take the oral fluconazole tablet to treat a yeast infection during pregnancy. It may cause birth defects.

Can I get a yeast infection from breastfeeding?

Yes. Yeast infections can happen on your nipples or in your breast (commonly called "thrush") from breastfeeding. Yeast thrive on milk and moisture. A yeast infection you get while breastfeeding is different from a vaginal yeast infection. However, it is caused by an overgrowth of the same fungus.

Symptoms of thrush during breastfeeding include:

  • Sore nipples that last more than a few days, especially after several weeks of pain-free breastfeeding
  • Flaky, shiny, itchy, or cracked nipples
  • Deep pink and blistered nipples
  • Achy breast
  • Shooting pain in the breast during or after feedings

If you have any of these signs or symptoms or think your baby might have thrush in his or her mouth, call your doctor. Learn more about thrush in our Breastfeeding section.

If I have a yeast infection, does my sexual partner need to be treated?

Maybe. Yeast infections are not STIs. But it is possible to pass yeast infections to your partner during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

  • If your partner is a man, the risk of infection is low. About 15% of men get an itchy rash on the penis if they have unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection. If this happens to your partner, he should see a doctor. Men who haven't been circumcised and men with diabetes are at higher risk.
  • If your partner is a woman, she may be at risk. She should be tested and treated if she has any symptoms.

How can I prevent a yeast infection?

You can take steps to lower your risk of getting yeast infections:

  • Do not douche. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection.
  • Do not use scented feminine products, including bubble bath, sprays, pads, and tampons.
  • Change tampons, pads, and panty liners often.
  • Do not wear tight underwear, pantyhose, pants, or jeans. These can increase body heat and moisture in your genital area.
  • Wear underwear with a cotton crotch. Cotton underwear helps keep you dry and doesn't hold in warmth and moisture.
  • Change out of wet swimsuits and workout clothes as soon as you can.
  • After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back.
  • Avoid hot tubs and very hot baths.
  • If you have diabetes, be sure your blood sugar is under control.

Does yogurt prevent or treat yeast infections?

Maybe. Studies suggest that eating eight ounces of yogurt with "live cultures" daily or taking Lactobacillus acidophilus capsules can help prevent infection.

But, more research still needs to be done to say for sure if yogurt with Lactobacillus or other probiotics can prevent or treat vaginal yeast infections. If you think you have a yeast infection, see your doctor or nurse to make sure before taking any over-the-counter medicine.

What should I do if I get repeat yeast infections?

If you get four or more yeast infections in a year, talk to your doctor or nurse.

About 5% of women get four or more vaginal yeast infections in one year. This is called recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). RVVC is more common in women with diabetes or weak immune systems, such as with HIV, but it can also happen in otherwise healthy women.

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