WHAT IS IT?
A vaginal yeast infection is an inflammation or irritation of the vagina and the tissues at the opening of the vagina (vulva) that causes itchiness and vaginal discharge.
Also called vaginal candidiasis, vaginal yeast infection is very common. As many as 3 out of 4 women experience the condition at some point in their lifetimes.
A vaginal yeast infection is caused by the fungus candida that interferes with the natural balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. Disruption of this healthy balance results in an overgrowth of yeast, leading to a yeast infection. Overgrowth may result from:
- Antibiotic use, which can change your natural pH balance, allowing yeast to overgrow
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- An impaired immune system
- Douching or irritation from inadequate vaginal lubrication
Yeast infection signs and symptoms can range from mild to moderate and include:
- Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva
- A burning sensation, especially during intercourse or urination
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Vaginal pain and soreness
- Thick, white vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance
You might have a more complicated yeast infection if you experience extensive redness or itching that causes tears, cracks or sores, or if you’ve had four or more yeast infections in a single year.
For mild to moderate symptoms and infrequent episodes of yeast infection, vaginal or oral medication is the most common treatment.
Short-course vaginal therapy. A one-time application or a one-to three-day regimen of an antifungal cream, ointment, tablet or suppository effectively clears a yeast infection in most cases
Treatment for a complicated yeast infection might include:
Long-course vaginal therapy. An azole medication is prescribed for a longer period — one to two weeks.
Multidose oral medication. Two or three doses of fluconazole are taken by mouth. This isn’t recommended for pregnant women.
Maintenance therapy. For recurrent yeast infections, your doctor may recommend a plan to keep yeast overgrowth in check and prevent future infections. Maintenance therapy starts after the initial treatment clears the yeast infection, and it may include fluconazole tablets taken once a week for six months. Some doctors prescribe the suppository clotrimazole used weekly instead of oral medication.
To reduce your risk of vaginal yeast infection:
- Don’t douche.
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Avoid tightfitting underwear, pantyhose, pants, or shorts.
- Change out of wet clothes, such as swimsuits or workout attire, as soon as possible.
- Avoid hot tubs or very hot baths.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.