Yeast Infection

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Vaginal yeast infection facts

  • Most vaginal yeast infections are caused by the organism Candida albicans.
  • Yeast infections are very common and affect up to 75% of women at some point in their lifetime.
  • The main symptom of a vaginal yeast infection is itching, but burning, discharge, and pain with urination or intercourse can also occur.
  • Treatment involves topical or oral antifungal medications.
  • It is possible for a woman to transmit a yeast infection to a male sex partner, even though yeast infection is not considered to be a true sexually-transmitted disease (STD) because it can occur in women who are not sexually active.
  • Treatment of yeast infection in men, like in women, involves antifungal medications.
  • Keeping the vaginal area dry and avoiding irritating chemicals can help prevent yeast infections in women. Consuming foods with probiotics also may help.

What is a vaginal yeast infection?

A vaginal yeast infection is an infection caused by yeast (a type of fungus). Vaginal yeast infection is sometimes referred to as yeast vaginitis, Candidal vaginitis, or Candidal vulvovaginitis. The scientific name for the yeast that causes vaginitis is Candida. Over 90% of vaginal yeast infections are caused by the species known as Candida albicans. Other Candida species make up the remainder of yeast infections.

Candida species can be present in healthy women in the vagina without causing any symptoms. In fact, it is estimated that 20% to 50% of women have Candida already present in the vagina. For an infection to occur, the normal balance of yeast and bacteria is disturbed, allowing overgrowth of the yeast. While yeast can be spread by sexual contact, vaginal yeast infection is not considered to be a sexually-transmitted disease because it can also occur in women who are not sexually active, due to the fact that yeast can be present in the vagina of healthy women.

Vaginal yeast infections are very common, affecting up to 75% of women at some point in life.

What causes a vaginal yeast infection?

Vaginal yeast infections occur when new yeast is introduced into the vaginal area, or when there is an increase in the quantity of yeast already present in the vagina relative to the quantity of normal bacteria. For example, when the normal, protective bacteria are eradicated by antibiotics (taken to treat a urinary tract, respiratory, or other types of infection) or by immunosuppressive drugs, the yeast can multiply, invade tissues, and cause irritation of the lining of the vagina (vaginitis).

Vaginal yeast infections can also occur as a result of injury to the inner vagina, such as after chemotherapy. Also, women with suppressed immune systems (for example, those taking cortisone-related medications such as prednisone) develop vaginal yeast infections more frequently than women with normal immunity. Other conditions that may predispose women to developing vaginal yeast infections include diabetes, pregnancy, and taking oral contraceptives. The use of douches or perfumed vaginal hygiene sprays may also increase a woman's risk of developing a vaginal yeast infection.

A vaginal yeast infection is not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD), since Candida may be present in the normal vagina, and the condition does occur in celibate women. However, it is possible for men to develop symptoms of skin irritation of the penis from a yeast infection after sexual intercourse with an infected partner.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/4/2014

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Vaginal Yeast Infection - Home Remedies Question: What home remedies have you found effective in soothing a vaginal yeast infection?
Vaginal Yeast Infection - OTC Medications Question: What OTC medications have you found effective in treating a vaginal yeast infection?
Vaginal Yeast Infection - Prescription Medications Question: What prescription medications were effective in treating your vaginal yeast infection?
Yeast Infection - Symptoms Question: Women: What were your symptoms associated with a yeast infection?
Yeast Infection - Prevention Question: What prevention measures do you use to avoid getting a yeast infection?
Yeast Infection - Causes Question: For women: what do you believe was the cause of your yeast infection?
Yeast Infection - Causes In Men Question: For men: Did you have a yeast infection? If so, what was the cause?
Yeast infection

Yeast Infection Symptoms

What are vulvitis and vaginal yeast infection symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of yeast infection are similar to those of other causes of vaginitis (inflammation or irritation of the vaginal canal), including Trichomonas infection and bacterial vaginosis.

Symptoms include:

  • Vaginal itching (that can be severe)
  • Vaginal burning, pain, and irritation
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal discharge

With a yeast infection, the discharge is most often described as whitish-gray, thick, and having a consistency similar to cottage cheese. There may be redness, swelling, irritation, and itching of the vulva in addition to the vaginal symptoms.