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Vaginal Yeast Infections
What is a vaginal yeast infection?
Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Yeast are tiny organisms that normally live in small numbers on the skin and inside the vagina. The acidic environment of the vagina helps keep yeast from growing. If the vagina becomes less acidic, too many yeast can grow and cause a vaginal infection.
The acidic balance of the vagina can be changed by your period (menstruation), pregnancy, diabetes, some antibiotics, birth control pills and steroids. Moisture and irritation of the vagina also seem to encourage yeast to grow.
How do I know if I have a yeast infection?
Yeast infections can be very uncomfortable, but are usually not serious. Symptoms include the following:
Yeast infections are so common that 3/4 of women will have one at some time in their lives. Half of all women have more than one infection in their lives. If you have symptoms of a yeast infection, your doctor will probably want to talk to you about your symptoms and examine you to make sure a yeast infection is the cause.
- Itching and burning in the vagina and around the vulva (the skin that surrounds your vagina)
- A white vaginal discharge that may look like cottage cheese
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Swelling of the vulva
How are these infections treated?
Yeast infections are usually treated with medicine that you put into your vagina. This medicine may be a cream that you insert in your vagina with a special applicator, or it may be a suppository that you put into your vagina and allow to dissolve on its own. Medicine in a cream form can also be put on your vulva to help relieve itching. Medicine in a pill form that you take by mouth is also available.
Should I see my doctor every time I have a yeast infection?
Be sure to see your doctor the first time you have symptoms of a yeast infection. It's very important to make sure you have a yeast infection before you start taking medicine. The symptoms of a yeast infection are also the symptoms of other infections, such as some STDs. Treating yourself for a yeast infection when you actually have another type of infection may make the problem much worse.
If you have often been diagnosed with yeast infections, talk to your doctor about using a medicine you can buy without a prescription.
How can I avoid getting another infection?
Here are some things you can do to help prevent another yeast infection:
Don't douche or use feminine hygiene sprays, deodorant sanitary pads or tampons, or bubble bath, and avoid using colored or perfumed toilet paper. These items seem to affect the balance of acidity of the vagina and can lead to symptoms of a yeast infection.
- Don't wear tight-fitting or synthetic-fiber clothes.
- Wear cotton panties.
- Don't wear pantyhose or leotards every day.
- Use your blow dryer on a low, cool setting to help dry your genital area after you bathe or shower and before getting dressed.
- Wipe from front to back after using the toilet. This may help prevent the bacteria that normally live in your rectum from getting into your vagina.
- Change out of wet swimsuits or other damp clothes as soon as you can.
Does my sexual partner need to be treated?
No. Doctors have found no benefit to treating the sexual partners of women with yeast infections.