Vaginal Yeast Infection
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Vaginal Yeast Infection

(Vaginal Candidiasis; Candidiasis; Candida Vulvovaginitis; Yeast Infection; Monilial Vulvovaginitis; Vulvovaginal Candidiasis; VVC)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

A vaginal yeast infection is caused by a yeast fungus called Candida albicans . Although yeast is always in the vagina, it can overgrow and cause the uncomfortable symptoms of a yeast infection.

Vagina

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Causes

Yeast grows in conditions that are less acidic. Yeast infections occur when mildly acidic vaginal fluids become less acidic. Yeast infections also result from any condition that causes a decrease in the "good" bacteria that help keep yeast levels in check.

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of developing a yeast infection. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Situations that can cause hormonal changes:
    • Birth control pills
    • Pregnancy
    • Menopause
    • Steroid use
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • Diabetes , especially when blood sugar is not well-controlled
  • A compromised immune system, such as with HIV infection
  • Perfumed feminine hygiene sprays, deodorant tampons, or bubble bath
  • Tight jeans, synthetic underwear, or a wet swimsuit
  • Douching

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to a yeast infection. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

  • Vaginal itching, ranging from mild to severe
  • A clumpy, vaginal discharge that may look like cottage cheese
  • Vaginal soreness, irritation, or burning
  • Rash or redness on the skin outside the vagina
  • Painful urination
  • Painful sexual intercourse

Diagnosis

Your doctor will take a history and perform a pelvic exam. Any vaginal discharge will be tested.

It is important to see a doctor the first time you have symptoms. Other infections, including bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis , have symptoms like those of a yeast infection. If you had a yeast infection before and are sure it is the same infection again, it is safe to use over-the-counter antifungal medications. Talk to your doctor if you have any doubt.

Treatment

Over-the-counter Medications

Various antifungal medications are available:

  • Monistat (miconazole nitrate)
  • Gyne-Lotrimin (clotrimazole vaginal)
  • Fem-stat (butoconazole vaginal)
  • Terazol (terconazole vaginal)
  • Mycelex (clotrimazole vaginal)
These are available as intravaginal creams, tablets, or suppositories. The treatments come in a one-day, three-day, or seven-day pack. Some of these are over-the-counter, and some require a prescription (eg, Terazol).

Prescription Medications

Your doctor can prescribe fluconazole (Diflucan) , an oral medication. Diflucan is a single-dose treatment. If you are pregnant, talk with your doctor before using any treatment.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting a yeast infection, take the following steps:

  • Dry the outside vaginal area thoroughly after a shower, bath, or swim.
  • Change out of a wet bathing suit or damp workout clothes as soon as possible.
  • Wear cotton underwear.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing.
  • Don't douche unless your doctor tells you to do so. Douching may disturb the vaginal balance. This decreases the normal acidity of vaginal secretions.
  • If you have diabetes , try and control your blood sugar.
  • Avoid bubble baths, perfumed feminine hygiene sprays, and scented soap.
  • Avoid frequent or prolonged use of antibiotics if possible.
  • Consider adding yogurt to your diet . Some women find that eating yogurt daily prevents yeast overgrowth.
  • Some women with chronic yeast infections find that cutting down on alcohol , sugar , caffeine , and refined carbohydrates helps as well.

RESOURCES:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org /

National Women's Health Information Center
http://www.4woman.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://www.sogc.org/index_e.asp/

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca/index.cfm /

References:

Vaginal yeast infection. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/healthscience/healthtopics/vaginalYeastInfection/default.htm . Accessed July 11, 2008.

Vaginal yeast infections. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/reproductive/vaginal/206.html . Published September 2000. Updated May 2008. Accessed July 11, 2008.

Yeast infections. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/17141.htm . Updated June 6, 2008. Accessed July 11, 2008.



Last reviewed January 2008 by Ganson Purcell Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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