Vaginal yeast infections are a very common problem in women. It is difficult to know the true percentage of women affected by yeast infections; they are frequently diagnosed without an examination and many women treat themselves with over-the-counter yeast treatments before seeking medical advice.
Itching of the vulva is the most common symptom of a vaginal yeast infection. Women may also note pain with urination, vulvar soreness or irritation, pain with intercourse, or reddened and swollen vulvar and vaginal tissues. There is often little or no vaginal discharge; if present, discharge is typically white and clumpy (curd-like) or thin and watery.
Symptoms of a yeast infection are similar to a number of other conditions. It is not usually possible to know, based on symptoms alone, if vulvar itching is caused by yeast or other potential causes.
Candida is a fungus that normally lives on the skin. It causes most cases of vaginal yeast infections. Normally, candida causes no symptoms. However, when the skin or mucous membranes undergo changes due to medications, injury, or stress to the immune system, candida multiplies and causes the characteristic symptoms of a yeast infection, described above.
In most women, there is no underlying disease or event that leads to a yeast infection. There are several risk factors that may increase the chances of developing an infection, including use of antibiotics, hormonal contraceptives and certain contraceptive devices, diabetes, pregnancy, and a weakened immune system (due to chemotherapy, HIV, or certain medications).
To diagnose a vaginal yeast infection, a healthcare provider will take a medical history, perform a physical examination, and perform diagnostic testing. It is important to be seen when symptoms are present and before any treatment is used.
Women with symptoms of vulvar itching or vaginal discharge frequently assume that their symptoms are related to a yeast infection and treat themselves. Incorrect self-diagnosis and treatment can delay appropriate treatment and wastes money.
Treatment of vaginal yeast infection may include a topical cream or tablet; most are applied inside the vagina at bedtime with an applicator. Treatment durations vary; one, three, and seven- day treatments are equally effective. Oral treatment is available as one dose of fluconazole (Diflucan®) 150 mg.
Where to Get More Information
Your healthcare provider is the best source of information for questions and concerns related to your medical problem. Because no two patients are exactly alike and recommendations can vary from one person to another, it is important to seek guidance from a provider who is familiar with your individual situation.
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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. This information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.