Vaginal yeast infection is an infection of the vagina, most commonly due to the fungus Candida albicans.
Most women will have a vaginal yeast infection at some time. Candida albicans is a common type of fungus. It is often present in small amounts in the vagina, mouth, digestive tract, and on the skin. Usually it does not cause disease or symptoms.
Candida and the many other germs or microorganisms that normally live in the vagina keep each other in balance. However, when the vagina has certain favorable conditions, the number of Candida albicans increases, leading to a yeast infection.
Some of these favorable conditions include:
Vaginal candidiasis is not a sexually transmitted disease. However, a small number of men will develop symptoms such as itching and a rash on the penis after having sexual contact with an infected partner.
Having many vaginal yeast infections may be a sign of other health problems. Other vaginal infections and discharges can be mistaken for a vaginal yeast infection.
Repeat infections that occur immediately after treatment, or a yeast infection that does not respond to any treatment, may be an early sign that a person is infected with HIV.
A pelvic examination will be done. It may show swelling (inflammation) of the skin of the vulva, in the vagina, and on the cervix. The health care provider may find dry, white plaques on the vaginal wall.
A small amount of the vaginal discharge is examined using a microscope (called a wet mount and KOH test). It will show Candida.
Sometimes, a culture is taken when the infection does not improve with treatment or comes back many times.
Your doctor may also choose to do tests to find other causes of your symptoms.
Medications for vaginal yeast infections are available in either vaginal creams or suppositories. Most can be bought without a prescription.
Treating yourself at home is probably okay if:
If your symptoms do not get better after one course of these medicines, or they become worse, see your health care provider. If your symptoms go away, but then return over the next several weeks or months, also see your health care provider.
Medications you can buy yourself to treat a vaginal yeast infection are miconazole, clotrimazole, tioconazole, and butoconazole. Read the packages carefully and use them as directed. Do not stop using these medications early because your symptoms are better. You will need a 3 - 7-day course, depending on which medicine you buy.
A single pill of a medicine called fluconazole, prescribed by your doctor or nurse, can also treat the yeast infection.
If your symptoms are more severe or you have repeat vaginal yeast infections, you may need to take a longer course of therapy, up to 14 days.
Some women who continue to have repeat infections may need to take a clotrimazole vaginal suppository or one oral dose of fluconazole every week to prevent new infections.
To help prevent and treat vaginal discharge:
The symptoms usually disappear completely with adequate treatment.
Chronic or recurrent infections may occur if you do not get the proper treatment, you reinfect yourself, or you have an underlying medical condition.
Secondary infection may occur. Intense or prolonged scratching may cause the skin of the vulva to become cracked and raw, making it more likely to get infected.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
Avoid persistent and excessive moisture in the genital area by wearing underwear or pantyhose with cotton crotches, and loose-fitting slacks. Avoid wearing wet bathing suits or exercise clothing for long periods of time, and wash them after each use.
Yeast infection - vagina; Vaginal candidiasis; Monilial vaginitis