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Yeast infection (vaginal)

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 11, 2023.

Overview

A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva — the tissues at the vaginal opening.

Also called vaginal candidiasis, vaginal yeast infection affects up to 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lifetimes. Many women experience at least two episodes.

A vaginal yeast infection isn't considered a sexually transmitted infection. But, there's an increased risk of vaginal yeast infection at the time of first regular sexual activity. There's also some evidence that infections may be linked to mouth to genital contact (oral-genital sex).

Medications can effectively treat vaginal yeast infections. If you have recurrent yeast infections — four or more within a year — you may need a longer treatment course and a maintenance plan.

Symptoms

Yeast infection symptoms can range from mild to moderate, and include:

Complicated yeast infection

You might have a complicated yeast infection if:

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if:

Causes

The fungus candida albicans is responsible for most vaginal yeast infections.

Your vagina naturally contains a balanced mix of yeast, including candida, and bacteria. Certain bacteria (lactobacillus) act to prevent an overgrowth of yeast.

But that balance can be disrupted. An overgrowth of candida or penetration of the fungus into deeper vaginal cell layers causes the signs and symptoms of a yeast infection.

Overgrowth of yeast can result from:

Candida albicans is the most common type of fungus to cause yeast infections. Yeast infections caused by other types of candida fungus can be more difficult to treat, and generally need more-aggressive therapies.

Risk factors

Factors that increase your risk of developing a yeast infection include:

Prevention

To reduce your risk of vaginal yeast infections, wear underwear that has a cotton crotch and doesn't fit too tightly.

It might also help to avoid:

Diagnosis

To diagnose a yeast infection, your doctor may:

Treatment

Treatment for yeast infections depends on the severity and frequency of your infections.

For mild to moderate symptoms and infrequent episodes, your doctor might recommend:

See your doctor again if treatment doesn't resolve your symptoms or if your symptoms return within two months.

If your symptoms are severe, or you have frequent yeast infections, your doctor might recommend:

Alternative medicine

No alternative medicine therapies have been proved to treat vaginal yeast infections. Some complementary and alternative therapies may provide some relief when combined with your doctor's care.

Talk to your doctor about what alternative treatments for vaginal yeast infection may be safe for you.

Preparing for an appointment

If you've been treated for a yeast infection in the past, your doctor may not need to see you and may prescribe a treatment over the phone. Otherwise, you're likely to see a family medicine doctor or gynecologist.

What you can do

Questions to ask your doctor

During your appointment, don't hesitate to ask other questions as they occur to you.

What to expect from your doctor

Questions your doctor is likely to ask include:

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