Vaginal yeast infections (candidiasis) are common. Over-the-counter treatment options may alleviate your symptoms within a few days. In severe cases, prescription medication may be necessary to clear the infection.
A healthy vagina contains bacteria and some yeast cells. But when the balance of bacteria and yeast changes, the yeast cells can multiply. This causes itching, swelling, and irritation.
Vaginal yeast infections are
Vaginal yeast infections typically cause:
- vaginal itching
- swelling around the vaginal opening
- burning during urination
- pain during penetrative vaginal sex (dyspareunia)
Whitish-yellow and clumpy vaginal discharge is another symptom. Some people describe the discharge as looking like cottage cheese. Sometimes, the discharge may also be watery.
But if there’s an imbalance in your system, these bacteria won’t work effectively. This leads to an overgrowth of yeast, which causes the symptoms of vaginal yeast infections.
Several factors can cause a yeast infection, including:
- antibiotics, which decrease the amount of Lactobacillus in the vagina
- uncontrolled diabetes
- weak immune system
- hormonal imbalance
A specific kind of yeast called Candida albicans
If you’re having recurring yeast infections or problems getting rid of a yeast infection with conventional treatment, a different version of Candida might be the cause. A lab test can identify what type of Candida you have.
Yeast infections are simple to diagnose. Your healthcare professional will ask about your medical history. This includes whether you’ve had yeast infections before. They may also ask if you’ve ever had a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Depending on what your doctor sees, the next step may be to collect cells from your vagina. These cells go to a lab for examination. Lab tests are usually ordered for people who have yeast infections regularly or for infections that won’t go away.
Each yeast infection is different, so your healthcare professional will suggest the best treatment for you. Treatments are generally determined based on the severity of your symptoms.
Simple yeast infections
For simple yeast infections, clinicians usually prescribe a 1-6 day regimen of an antifungal cream, ointment, tablet, or suppository. These medications can be in prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) form.
Common medications include:
- butoconazole (Gynazole)
- clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
- miconazole (Monistat)
- terconazole (Terazol)
- fluconazole (Diflucan)
You might follow up with your clinician to ensure the medication has worked. You should also schedule a follow-up visit if your symptoms return within two months.
If you recognize that you have a yeast infection, you can also treat it at home with OTC products.
Complicated yeast infections
Your healthcare professional will likely treat your yeast infection as if it were a severe or complicated case if you:
- have severe redness, swelling, and itching that leads to sores or tears in your vaginal tissue
- have had more than four yeast infections in a year
- are pregnant
- have uncontrolled diabetes or a weak immune system from medication
- have HIV
Possible treatments for severe or complicated yeast infections include:
- 14-day cream, ointment, tablet, or suppository vaginal treatment
- two or three doses of fluconazole (Diflucan)
- long-term prescription of fluconazole taken once a week for six weeks or long-term use of a topical antifungal medication
If you’re sexually active and your infection is recurring, you may want to see if a sexual partner has a yeast infection. It’s possible to pass the infection back and forth.
Avoid sexual activity or use a barrier method, such as a condom, when having sex if you suspect either of you has a yeast infection.
You can try to treat vaginal yeast infections with natural remedies if you’d like to avoid taking prescription medication, but these aren’t as effective or reliable as the indicated medications.
Popular natural remedies include:
Make sure your hands are clean before applying creams or oils to your vagina.
You may also want to talk with a healthcare professional before trying natural remedies. If your symptoms are due to something other than a simple yeast infection, a doctor can help diagnose your condition.
Talk with your doctor about herbal remedies if you take OTC or prescription drugs. Some herbs can interact with medications you may be taking or can cause other unintended side effects.
All bodies have Candida — not just the female body. When there’s an overgrowth of this fungus, it can lead to a yeast infection. The groin area is especially prone to Candida overgrowth because of skin folds and moisture.
Still, penile yeast infections are most commonly caused by having condomless penis-in-vagina sex with a partner who has a yeast infection.
The symptoms of a yeast infection may not be as prominent in people with penises. You might see redness and white patches along the shaft or experience a burning or itchy sensation.
Consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis if you think you have a penile yeast infection.
The most common yeast infection in infants is a diaper rash. However, not all diaper rashes are the result of yeast overgrowth.
You can tell if the condition is more than just a diaper rash if your baby’s skin is extremely red and has spots in the groin area despite using diaper rash cream. Yeast infections may also be present in other skin folds, such as under the armpits.
Your child’s pediatrician will likely prescribe a topical antifungal cream to treat yeast infections of the skin. An oral medication may be needed if your baby has oral thrush (yeast infection of the mouth).
While yeast infections in babies are usually harmless, they can lead to more serious infections when left untreated.
Although you can pass a yeast infection to another person, it’s not contagious in the same way as other infections are.
You won’t “catch” the infection through the air or by using the same shower as someone with the infection, for example.
Yeast infections aren’t considered STIs. Although sexual contact can increase your risk, it does not directly cause a yeast infection.
A newborn may develop a fungal diaper rash if the birthing parent has a vaginal yeast infection during delivery. Nursing can also pass a yeast infection to the baby’s mouth if Candida overgrowth is present in the breast area.
Yeast infections are common during pregnancy because of hormone fluctuations. Consult a healthcare professional if you’re pregnant and suspect a yeast infection to get the right diagnosis.
You won’t be able to take oral antifungal medications due to possible birth defects. Topical antifungals are safe to use during pregnancy, though.
It’s important to treat yeast infection early, especially if you’re pregnant so that you can prevent such complications.
While it’s possible to have one or the other, or even both infections simultaneously, UTIs and yeast infections are different.
A UTI is a bacterial infection that affects the urinary system. This complex system includes your urethra, as well as your bladder and kidneys. Sexual activity, STIs, and failure to urinate regularly can all increase your risk of UTIs.
The symptoms of a UTI are also different from those of a yeast infection. There’s no noticeable discharge, but you might see a small amount of blood in your urine. A UTI can also cause frequent urination along with pelvic and abdominal pain.
Without treatment, a UTI can lead to more serious kidney complications. Consult a healthcare professional to get antibiotics.
If this is your first suspected yeast infection, you’ll want to get a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional. This ensures that your symptoms are related to Candida overgrowth and not a more serious condition.
Your clinician will first conduct a pelvic exam, noting any visible discharge, redness, and swelling. They will ask you about other symptoms such as burning and painful urination.
If needed, your clinician might order a vaginal fluid test. They will first collect a sample of vaginal discharge with a cotton swab, which will then be sent to a lab for study under a microscope.
Once your clinician has determined it’s a fungal infection — or another type of infection — they will then be able to prescribe the correct treatment.
While it’s possible to develop a yeast infection after sex, a yeast infection itself is not an STI. Instead, other factors at play can throw off your vagina’s Candida balance.
Fingering, oral-vaginal sex, and penetration with a sex toy or penis can all introduce bacteria. Genital-on-genital contact with a partner who has a yeast infection can also transmit the fungus to you.
It’s also possible that the yeast infection is purely coincidental. There are many underlying risk factors for a yeast infection, with sexual contact being just one of them.
BV is the
BV has other symptoms similar to a yeast infection, including changes in discharge, burning, and itching. This can make distinguishing between the two infections difficult.
But while a vaginal yeast infection doesn’t cause long-term complications, untreated BV can. This includes an increased risk of STIs, preterm labor, and infertility.
Unlike a yeast infection, you’ll need a prescription antibiotic to clear up BV. A healthcare professional can help you distinguish between a yeast infection and BV.
Chances are that you know exactly what led to your yeast infection. For example, some people experience these infections every time they take antibiotics.
Whether you know the exact cause, here are tips to avoid recurring infections.
- eating a well-balanced diet
- eating yogurt or taking supplements with lactobacillus
- wearing natural fibers such as cotton, linen, or silk
- washing underwear in hot water
Essential oils have gained attention recently as “natural” remedies to common medical ailments. These plant-based products can be powerful, but so far, no research has shown that essential oils work better for yeast infections than conventional methods.
One risk with essential oils is that some people might be allergic to them. Do a patch test on a small spot before applying them to larger areas. This is especially important when considering sensitive areas such as the vulva and vagina. It’s also important to dilute oils properly before use.
Confirm with a healthcare professional that your symptoms are indeed caused by a yeast infection before trying essential oils as treatment. You can also ask about safer oils, such as coconut oil, for symptom relief.
Having both a yeast infection and your period can feel like a double whammy. However, this isn’t uncommon. Yeast infections are most likely to occur during the final days leading up to menstruation.
Fluctuations in hormones are thought to be a cause of yeast infections before your period, causing imbalances in healthy bacteria in the vagina.
If you experience white to yellow discharge in the week before your period, this isn’t automatically a yeast infection unless you have other hallmark symptoms, too, such as redness, burning, and itchiness.
While a nuisance, early treatment can help clear up your yeast infection before your period starts. Consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms don’t improve after your period ends or if you continue to get yeast infections before your period.
Yeast infections are common occurrences. Prompt treatment can help reduce uncomfortable symptoms within a few days. By recognizing your own risk factors, you can prevent future infections.
Consult with a healthcare professional if you have recurring yeast infections that last longer than two months.