A vaginal yeast infection is an infection of the vagina usually caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Technically, a yeast infection is called “candidiasis.”
Yeast infections are very common; according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 75 percent of women will experience a symptomatic yeast infection during their lifetime and 40 to 45 percent will experience two or more.
The fungus that causes yeast infections is very common and is often present in small amounts in the vagina, mouth, digestive tract, and on the skin. It usually doesn’t cause any problems. However, in some cases, favorable growing conditions allow fungal overgrowth, leading to infection.
For example, women are at a greater risk of a yeast infection during pregnancy. Other factors, such as the use of oral contraceptives and antibiotics, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, and a weakened immune system can contribute to an increase in yeast infections.
Symptoms and Treatment
Common symptoms of a yeast infection include itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina. Other symptoms may include painful urination, pain during intercourse, and a thick vaginal discharge. Women who experience these symptoms should see their doctor to determine the safest course of treatment.
Your doctor may recommend or prescribe an antifungal medication. There are a variety of antifungal medications to treat yeast infections. These come in topical creams, tablets which can be taken orally, or suppositories for use in the vagina.
There are steps you can take to help prevent a yeast infection. Keep your genital area clean and dry and avoid douching. Other preventative tips include:
- Eating yogurt with live cultures or take Lactobacillus acidophilus tablets when you are on antibiotics to prevent a yeast infection
- Using condoms to avoid catching or spreading sexually transmitted diseases
- Avoiding feminine hygiene sprays, fragrances, or powders in the genital area
- Not wearing extremely tight-fitting pants or shorts, which may cause irritation
- Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding underwear made of silk or nylon, because these materials are not very absorbent and restrict air flow. This can increase sweating in the genital area, which can cause irritation.
- Using pads instead of tampons.
- Keeping your blood sugar levels under good control if you have diabetes