Vaginal Yeast Infection

What Is a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

A vaginal yeast infection occurs when you have an overgrowth of candida or yeast in the vagina. This may occur in females of any age. This is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Yeast Infections?

Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include:

  • Vaginal discharge (most commonly thick and white but can be watery)
  • Vaginal itching
  • Irritation, redness and swelling of the vagina/vulva
  • Pain and soreness of the vagina
  • Pain with urination or intercourse
  • You may have a complicated yeast infection if:
    • You have cracks and sores in the genital area
    • You have four or more in a year
    • You have uncontrolled diabetes
    • Your immune system is weakened by a medication or certain condition

What Causes Vaginal Yeast Infections?

The fungus candida albicans is the most common organism that causes vaginal yeast infections. Yeast infections caused by other candida fungus can be challenging to treat and may need additional treatment.

Your vagina contains a balanced mix of bacteria and yeast however this balance is sometimes interrupted by the overgrowth of candida deep into the vagina.

Overgrowth of yeast can result from:

  • Antibiotic use
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased estrogen levels (taking hormonal therapy with estrogen or pregnancy which results in higher estrogen levels) 

How Are Yeast Infections Treated?

Typically an internal exam is not necessary with a speculum. Your provider may perform a culture which is done by gently touching the genitalia and vagina with a very small swab which is sent to the lab. The lab will evaluate the type of fungus/yeast that is causing the symptoms.

A yeast infection can be treated by oral pills or a short course of vaginal therapy (creams, ointments, suppositories). Some of these medications are sold over the counter or by prescription. If symptoms remain after treatment it is important to notify the provider.

Girls can reduce the risk of getting a yeast infection by:

  • Wearing white cotton underwear
  • Wearing loose clothing and avoiding clothes that cause extra rubbing
  • Avoiding long exposure to wet clothes, such as exercise attire or bathing suits
  • Unnecessary antibiotic use
  • Using mild unscented soap and avoiding bubble baths
  • Avoiding all irritants like soaps, lotions, detergents or fabric softeners with colors and fragrance
  • Avoiding douching, which removes some of the good bacteria that protects the vagina