Vaginal yeast infection

Definition

Vaginal yeast infection is an infection of the vagina. It is most commonly due to the fungus Candida albicans.

Causes

Most women have a vaginal yeast infection at some time. Candida albicans is a common type of fungus. It is often found in small amounts in the vagina, mouth, digestive tract, and on the skin. Most of the time, it does not cause infection or symptoms.

Candida and the many other germs that normally live in the vagina keep each other in balance. Sometimes the number of candida increases. This leads to a yeast infection.

This can happen if:

A yeast infection is not spread through sexual contact. However, some men may develop symptoms after having sexual contact with an infected partner. These symptoms may include itching, rash or irritation of the penis.

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.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will do a pelvic exam. It may show:

A small amount of the vaginal discharge is examined using a microscope. This is called a wet mount and KOH test.

Sometimes, a culture is taken if:

Your provider may order other tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

Treatment

Medicines to treat vaginal yeast infections are available as creams, ointments, vaginal tablets or suppositories and oral tablets. Most can be bought without needing to see your provider.

Treating yourself at home is probably OK if:

Medicines you can buy yourself to treat a vaginal yeast infection are:

When using these medicines:

You doctor can also prescribe a pill that you only take by mouth once.

If your symptoms are worse or you get vaginal yeast infections often, you may need:

To help prevent and treat vaginal discharge:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most of the time, symptoms go away completely with proper treatment.

Possible Complications

A lot of scratching may cause the skin to crack, making you more likely to get a skin infection.

A woman may have diabetes or weak immune system (such as in HIV) if:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:


Review Date: 6/30/2019
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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