vaginal yeast infection

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Office on Women's Health)

What is a vaginal yeast infection?
A vaginal yeast infection is irritation of the vagina and the area around it called the vulva.
Yeast is a type of fungus. Yeast infections are caused by overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Small amounts of yeast are always in the vagina. But, when too much yeast grows, you can get an infection.
Yeast infections are very common. About 75 percent of women have one during their lives. And almost half of women have two or more vaginal yeast infections.

What are the signs of a vaginal yeast infection?
The most common symptom of a yeast infection is extreme itchiness in and around the vagina.
Other symptoms include:
-- soreness
-- pain during sex
-- a rash on the vagina
-- pain when passing urine
-- burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and the vulva
-- a thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese and does not have a bad smell

How is a vaginal yeast infection diagnosed?
Your doctor will do a pelvic exam to look for swelling and discharge. Your doctor may also use a swab to take a fluid sample from your vagina. A quick look with a microscope or a lab test will show if yeast is causing the problem.

Why did I get a yeast infection?
Many things can raise your risk of a vaginal yeast infection, such as:
-- stress
-- illness
-- pregnancy
-- lack of sleep
-- having your period
-- hormonal changes during your periods
-- diseases such as poorly controlled diabetes and HIV/AIDS
-- poor eating habits, including eating extreme amounts of sugary foods
-- taking certain medicines, including birth control pills, antibiotics, and steroids

How are yeast infections treated?
Yeast infections can be cured with antifungal medicines that come as:
-- tablets
-- creams
-- ointments
-- suppositories
These products can be bought over the counter at the drug store or grocery store. Your doctor can also prescribe you a single dose of oral fluconazole. But, do not take this drug if you are pregnant.
Infections that do not respond to these medicines are starting to be more common. Using antifungal medicines when you do not really have a yeast infection can raise your risk of getting a hard-to-treat infection in the future.

How can I avoid getting another yeast infection?
Below are some steps you can take in order to prevent vaginal yeast infections:
-- avoid douches
-- avoid hot tubs and very hot baths
-- change tampons and pads often during your period
-- avoid tight underwear or clothes made of synthetic fibers
-- wear cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch
-- change out of wet swimsuits and exercise clothes as soon as you can
-- avoid scented hygiene products like bubble bath, sprays, pads, and tampons