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 vaginal 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 infection, although the fungus that causes the condition can be spread through oral-genital contact. Simple 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 a maintenance plan.
Yeast infection symptoms can range from mild to moderate and include:
- Itching and irritation in the vagina and at the entrance to the vagina (vulva)
- A burning sensation, especially during intercourse or while urinating
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Vaginal pain and soreness
- Thick, white, odour-free vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance
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:
- Antibiotic use, which leads to a decrease in the amount of lactobacillus bacteria in your vagina and a change in your vaginal pH that allows yeast to overgrow
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Impaired immune system
- Anything that changes the type and amount of bacteria normally present in the vagina, such as douching or irritation from inadequate vaginal lubrication
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 infection because it happens in women who aren’t sexually active and the candida fungus is naturally present in the vagina.
Factors that increase your risk of developing a yeast infection include:
- Antibiotic use.Yeast infections are common in women who take antibiotics. Broad-spectrum antibiotics — those that are effective against a wide range of bacteria — kill healthy bacteria in your vagina, which can lead to the overgrowth of yeast.
- Increased estrogen levels.Yeast infections appear to occur more frequently in women with increased estrogen levels — for instance, in women who are pregnant, those taking high-dose estrogen birth control pills or those taking estrogen hormone therapy.
- Uncontrolled diabetes.In women who have diabetes, those with poorly controlled blood sugar levels are more likely to develop yeast infections than are women who have diabetes under control.
- Impaired immune system.Women with lowered immunity — such as from corticosteroid therapy or HIV infection — are more likely to get yeast infections.
- Sexual activity.Although yeast infections aren’t considered sexually transmitted infections, one way the candida organism can be introduced into your vagina is through sexual contact.
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
So that your doctor can observe and evaluate your vaginal discharge, avoid using tampons and don’t douche before your appointment.
Here’s some information to help you prepare for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
- Make a list of any symptoms you’ve had and for how long.
- Make note of key medical information,including any other conditions for which you’re being treated and the names of any medications, vitamins or supplements you’re taking.
- Avoid using tampons or douching before your appointment so that your doctor can assess any vaginal discharge you have.
- Make a list of questions to ask your doctor,putting the most important ones first in case time runs short.
For yeast infection, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- How can I prevent yeast infections?
- What signs and symptoms should I watch out for?
- Do I need to take medicine?
- Does my partner also need to be tested or treated?
- Are there any special instructions for taking the medicine?
- Are there any over-the-counter products that will treat my condition?
- What can I do if my symptoms return after treatment?
During your appointment, don’t hesitate to ask other questions as they occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
- What vaginal symptoms do you have?
- Do you notice a strong vaginal odour?
- How long have you had your symptoms?
- Have you ever been treated for a vaginal infection?
- Have you tried any over-the-counter products to treat your condition?
- Have you recently taken antibiotics?
- Are you sexually active?
- Are you pregnant?
- Do you use scented soap or bubble bath?
- Do you douche or use feminine hygiene spray?
- What medications or vitamin supplements do you regularly take?
To reduce your risk of vaginal yeast infection:
- Avoid douching.
- Wear cotton underwear and loosefitting pants or skirts.
- Avoid tight-fitting underwear or pantyhose.
- Change out of wet clothes, such as swimsuits or workout attire, as soon as possible.
- Stay out of hot tubs or very hot baths.
- Air your underwear ladies
Thanks to Mayo Clinic for the info