Anita Sadaty, MD, is board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology. She is a clinical assistant professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and founder of Redefining Health Medical.
A vaginal yeast infection is a common condition caused by an overgrowth of naturally occurring fungi called Candida, especially Candida albicans. As many as 72% of women have had at least one vaginal yeast infection during their lifetime.
Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can include vaginal itching, redness or soreness, and a clumpy white discharge. It is important to have a yeast infection diagnosed by a physician because several other conditions, such as bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and vulvitis, can cause similar symptoms.
Yeast infections can also occur in the mouth (thrush) and other areas, but these infections are more common in young children or those with weakened immune systems.
Vaginal yeast infections are treated with over-the-counter (OTC) topical antifungal products or prescription oral medication, such as Diflucan (fluconazole). The topical options include vaginal suppositories (inserts), tablets, or creams. Those who have recurring symptoms or more than four infections in a year may be treated with antifungal medications for up to six months.
Candida normally lives in the vagina and is a standard part of the human microbial flora. It only becomes problematic if allowed to proliferate, which can occur under a number of conditions that may disrupt vaginal acidity and floral balance. This can include use of antibiotics, certain contraceptives, pregnancy, menstruation, diabetes, or a weakened immune system.
Anyone can get a yeast infection, but they are much less common in men than women. Men often do not experience symptoms, but there may be itchiness, redness on the tip of the penis, and white discharge. About 15% of men get an itchy rash after having unprotected sex with a partner who has a yeast infection. There are also antifungal creams, such as those for jock itch, and oral medications.
It depends on the severity of the infection. Once treated, most vaginal yeast infections resolve within a week. Severe infections may take slightly longer and any recurring symptoms should be evaluated by a physician who may prescribe longer doses or oral or topical medications.
Yeast infections are not considered sexually transmitted infections since you can get them without having sex. They can, however, be transferred between partners during sexual activity. Condoms and dental dams may help prevent passing yeast infections to partners (but some antifungal medications may weaken the material of condoms and dental dams).
A yeast (type of fungus) found in the mouth, vagina, and intestinal tract. Species of candida, especially candida albicans, can cause vaginal yeast infections and oral yeast infections (thrush). An overgrowth of candida can be treated with antifungal medications. Different medications are used depending on the location of the infection.
A fluid that comes out of the body. Vaginal discharge is a normal way for the vagina to stay lubricated and to clean itself. Abnormal vaginal discharge is when there is a change in color, amount, or consistency, and may indicate infection. Vaginal discharge that is white and clumpy may indicate a yeast infection.
An external and internal examination of the pelvis, including the vulva, vagina, and cervix. If an infection is suspected, a gynecologist will check for visual signs of the infection and may take swab samples that can test for yeast, bacterial vaginosis, and certain sexually transmitted infections by examining the samples under a microscope.
Short-course vaginal therapy for a yeast infection is a topical antifungal that is given for one to three days. Short-course vaginal therapy is only effective for mild, uncomplicated yeast infections. Other yeast infections may need a topical treatment for a week or more or may require oral medications.
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